Archive for August, 2012

We need to revive appreciation for the traditional model of a practitioner who lives a life of simplicity and humility, sincerity and endeavor, kindness and compassion. We must choose teachers with these qualities, cultivate these qualities in ourselves, and guide our students in developing them.

– Bhikshuni Thubten Chodron, “Shopping the Dharma

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All of us will die sooner or later

Ironically, my first night of sitting in contemplative silence, meditating on this assertion, All of us will die sooner or later, with what feels like the start of the flu.

We have a fragile, impermanent existence. . . and illness, pain, aging all are like mindfulness bells ringing to remind us to be present here and now because we have nothing more than the present moment!

I got on my cushion in the evening and tried to get comfortable.  I was wrapped up in a blanket to keep warm.  I keep my apartment on the cold side because I find it helps with things like inflammation and pain.

I chuckled to myself that my hands were as cold as a corpse, so maybe that was a good sign for sitting with this true reality of impermanence.  And I sat with my skull mala in my hands, hoping that would ground me to the experience.

All of us will die sooner or later. . .

I’ve often wondered, out loud and to myself, if in our bliss to find our life partners, we stopped to ponder that one day one of us would die and the survivor would be left to mourn, how many of us would really go through the pain of love?  Could we even ponder this every day of a relationship and still be able to be loving?

Like someone once said, I’m not afraid of death, I just don’t want to be present to my dying.  I have to imagine that most people have a hard time thinking of their loved one dying.  It’s not a pleasant thought and it certainly feels like a lonely thought.

All of us will die sooner or later. . .

I’ve done the Nine Contemplations as a meditation series for myself before this time.  I’m always amazed at the richness that comes with it, however, when I am sick and doing the meditations.

It’s one thing to say you have an awareness of aging and dying. . . it’s another thing when your breathing is labored and you don’t have the energy to get yourself out of bed for a glass of water or juice.

My cold hands clutched the skull mala that I own.  I use it when I do meditations on dying.  As the turquoise carved skulls go between my fingers and as my back gets a little achy from trying to hold it upright while sitting on the cushion (when all I want to do is be in bed), I think to myself. . . I wonder what’s really the harder thing to do . . . living or dying. . .

All of us will die sooner or later. . .

there is no getting around it.

there is no hiding from it.

From our literature to our movies, we are constantly reminded that we will say goodbye. . .

not in a sappy love song sort of way though. . .

but in an unraveling of the spirit from the mortal flesh. . .

a pulling away of light from our neurotic grasping. . .

a severing the deep ties to all that we are attached to in this life as we re-enter the world of no-thing-ness.

All of us will die sooner or later.

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To acknowledge that you are dying is to recognize that you are alive.

~~ Dean Rolston, Memento Mori: Notes on Buddhism and AIDS

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“People tell me they’re saddened by the ugly, uncivil polarization they see in public life, and the isolation and loneliness they feel in private.  They hunger for cooperation, connection, and community.  Meditation, which teaches kindness, compassion, and patience, is a clear, straightforward method for improving relationships with family, friends, and everyone else we meet.”

Sharon Salzberg, Happiness

I don’t know if we are ever so polarized as during an election year.

Human beings label things, pick sides, need to be right, and have fear.

Meditation teaches us how to label without judgment, to follow the middle path, and to let go of fear for a more compassionate relationship with the world.

I am really excited that I have the opportunity to teach at a local community college and mindfulness is one of my first agenda items.  It’s a skill that we should teach in first grade but if they can be inspired, as I was in my sophomore year, than maybe we have a chance for real change and happiness.

Thanks to Sharon Salzberg for an amazing book and profound and simple wisdom.

Peace, Jen

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Allowing Space

Ani Pema Chödrön

Ani Pema Chödrön (Photo credit: albill)

It is never too late for any of us to look at our minds. We can always sit down and allow the space for anything to arise. Sometimes we have a shocking experience of ourselves. Sometimes we try to hide. Sometimes we have a surprising experience of ourselves. Often we get carried away. Without judging, without buying into likes and dislikes, we can always encourage ourselves to just be here again and again and again.

from “When Things Fall Apart:Heart Advice for Difficult Times”, page 27.
Heart Advice weekly quotes from Pema Chodron, courtesy of Shambhala Publications.

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Presence has no measurable product except positive feelings, feelings of support, intimacy, and happiness. When we stop being busy and productive and switch to just being still and aware, we ourselves will also feel support, intimacy, and happiness, even if no one else is around.

~~Jan Chozen Bays, “The Gift of Waiting”

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When will it end?

"Quintessence of compassion"

“Quintessence of compassion” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I was so disheartened when I ran home tonight for my dinner break to see the headlines down in a neighborhood by  Texas A & M…

When will we start to look at domestic terrorism, gun control, the mental health system, campus violence, etc?  When are we going to identify the crisis of conscience?  Apparently law enforcement went to deliver an eviction notice and they were fired upon from inside the residence.

I worry.  I have some I love dearly who is a police officer.  This officer was going about doing something mundane and a part of their everyday job.  And another person, a bystander, killed for being in the “wrong place at the wrong time….”  not that that ever comforted anyone.

And why does this shooting get national attention while shootings in neighborhoods of minorities of all sorts, of the disenfranchised, of  those who are disadvantaged, are tolerated and we accept “that’s just the way it is?”

It break my heart to know that another community is shaken to its core.  More families are grieving.  More students will feel unsafe, in the very place we entrust them to learn and foster a new and educated population.

How did we foster a world where the only answer is to get on the internet and buy SWAT equipment and tear gas?

I used to believe that people wanted to get better, that they wanted to flourish, live the good life as best as they can.

I guess I used to be really naive.  But I grew up to say please and thank you, to be of service to the old and infirmed.

And even as I type these words, I think about the violence that so many of us do to ourselves. .  . the hatred and  vitriol of our own thinking and judgments of our selves.

The family violence.

The broken communities.

I think about the terrible pain that is in our world, our communities, and in our hearts and minds.

Oṃ Tāre Tuttāre Ture Svāhā

Wildmind.org says this about this mantra. . .”in particular she represents compassion in action, since she’s in the process of stepping from her lotus throne in order to help sentient beings.”

I think that for the next few weeks, this will be my mantra though it’s not my normal mantra.  But this is also not normal times.  Tara is a bodhisttva of compassion.  Her name means “she who ferries” and I think the mantra is appropriate.  We feel like we are shuffling along and a desert shore, thirsty and trying to get to the sea in order to heal ourselves.  But we are blinded by the sun and parched from the heat.  Our shoreline is crumbling beneath us and we are searching.

Perhaps Tara will hear our prayers and hearts and disillusionment.  Perhaps she will come to bring us to a new land where compassion is fostered, not hatred.  Where we don’t worry about who marries whom or fight over feeding children and the elderly.

I’m not much for believing in mythology being real but I think we need to look at the metaphors for our times.  I don’t think it is any surprise that we are seeing all kinds of superhero movies.  We want to be saved from a world we think is unstable.  But we need to stop searching “out there” for someone to save us and look instead at our own motivations and aspirations.  I don’t think that the Hulk or Iron Man are the answer though… Though, Tony Starks is a bit of a dream.

We need to really take up the cause of our true heroes. . . HH the Dalai Lama, Rosa Parks, Mother Teresa, Ghandi, Thich Nhat Hanh, Martin Luther King Jr, JF Kennedy . . . whomever it is. . . we need to stop posting their quotes on facebook and instead, start living our lives modeled after our idols out there on the street and in our own heart/mind.

We can be our own Tara, our own version of a bodhisattva of compassion.  We are here and now and we are a being that is always moving forward and looking backwards.  Perhaps we can bridge the shore that we are on with a bridge to a more compassionate land.

For the families and individuals who were affected by today’s shooting.  To the kids who will be starting school all over the country next week, I wish for them peace, safety, comfort, lovingkindness, and deep abiding calm.

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