If only wee could see the impact we have. If only we could see how we touch those around us. If only we knew what each little act we do (especially with love and with selflessness) brings to the world. I met a young man many years ago who was brilliant (he really shined) but he was troubled and couldn’t see how much he touched those around him. He gave me a CD of his beautiful, self-composed music – divine. He may never know how much that gift was able to accomplish. Today, my heart is open and I listen to the piano soothing and stirring my heart with it’s melodies of love. I can feel his love, his joy and his pain encouraging my own heart to speak. So now I share these words, we are so kind, so incredibly kind, our nature is kindness.
If only Christopher McCandless (Into the Wild) or Amy Winehouse knew their kindness and ability to touch others. Maybe they would still be here now with us or, maybe, their deaths were their greatest kindness, revealing the tragedy of not knowing how loved they were or that they really touched those around them in profound ways. We can learn from the tragedy of their stories. May no one die without knowing how very kind they have been.
If only you could see how you changed the world when you opened your heart and did something courageous because your heart told you to or because you had nothing left you let someone help you. If only you could see the chain reaction of interactions and events, the ripple that followed. If only we could see how good we really are.
Sometimes others can see this goodness and we can’t. If only others would point out what is good and kind. We are all teachers. We are all touched by the love of others and feel it. If only we could reciprocate or express our gratitude, reinforcing the kindness shown to us and pointing out to others how wonderfully kind they really are. Imagine what our world would be like if we could do this. We would be met with love and joy wherever we went.
Maybe we can be shown how we touch the world? Maybe we only need ask? A yearning request from the heart to be shown how we touch the world and who we really are. Maybe we can try.
We can spend our whole lives in the void of loneliness and isolation, never seeing that we have these gifts within us – each of us. Sometimes, as my teacher, Sogyal Rinpoche, would say ‘it’s like we’re looking for our glasses but they are already on our heads.’ We already have so many qualities but through our pain and self-rejection we just can’t see them. They were always there and everyone else can see them but us. Imagine if we could see them and own them, be them. Imagine that. We could cultivate them because we would be able to see how much happiness they bring to others and, in turn, to ourselves. We could see that real happiness comes with sharing these qualities with the world and developing them further so that they become limitless. We would see that our insatiable appetite for satisfaction and consumption will never fill that hole left from the lack of our own self-love and self-recognition. We would see that celebrating the joy, beauty and meaning that we, as individuals, bring to the world is not arrogant but merely acknowledgement of the truth. We all have this heart of goodness. It may be hiding right now but it is there and we each have tiny moments of recognition throughout our lives. If only we could cherish them for what they are – precious gifts with the potential to reveal to us who we really are. May we be able to receive this love and acknowledgement when it comes our way rather than rejecting or doubting it.
As these qualities are expressed in relation to others. It is through their kindness that we can begin to see them. We can’t love without an object of love and we can’t inspire without an object to be inspired. Therefore we can also acknowledge the tremendous kindness of others, giving precious opportuniti to shine.
I would like to thank a very special person that has entered my life and, day by day, holds up the mirror to me with such kindness, revealing to me the beauty in my own reflection. How wonderful! What kindness! What I can see I can identify with and own and, therefore, become. Ballet dancers learn in front of the mirror so that when they dance they know how beautifully they move and do so with confidence and without hesitation. I am learning to dance. May we all teach each other, mirroring back our own unique beauty to each and every one around us. I encourage you, today, to share with someone something they do well, something that touches you (even if only a little), something they may not see and then rejoice in how wonderful you are for showing such kindness.
May we all awaken fully to our good hearts.
So we all know about laziness, right? Well, in Buddhism there is something called ‘active laziness’ and, in the west, we are experts at it. It sounds almost contradictory as, in the case of active laziness, you don’t usually sit around slothfully but, rather exert huge amounts of energy in distraction, endlessly avoiding the most important things – being still and healing ourselves.
Have you ever noticed how hard it can be to just sit still without daydreaming, planning or ruminating about times past? It can feel so foreign just sitting, just being without any specific purpose. To some this would seem a complete waste of time. However, from the Buddhist perspective, engaging endlessly in activity is a waste of time. After all, how much of our movement and thoughts actually bring a meaningful outcome? Could we not be more efficient, purposeful and conscious in our actions? Too often we are swept away by half-cocked ideas and a never-ending torrent of discursive thoughts. However, it doesn’t take much effort to see how deluded we can be when we actually listen objectively to what they are telling us.
I think the story of the Mexican Fisherman summarises active laziness really well:
The Fisherman Story
A boat docked in a tiny Mexican village.
An American tourist complimented the Mexican fisherman on the quality of his fish and asked how long it took him to catch them.
“Not very long,” answered the Mexican.
“But then, why didn’t you stay out longer and catch more?” asked the American.
The Mexican explained that his small catch was sufficient to meet his needs and those of his family.
The American asked, “But what do you do with all your time?”
“I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, and take a siesta with my wife. In the evenings, I go into the village to see my friends, have a few drinks, play the guitar, and sing a few songs…I have a full life.”
The American interrupted, “I have an MBA from Harvard and I can help you!
You should start by fishing longer every day. You can then sell the extra fish you catch. With the extra revenue, you can buy a bigger boat. With the extra money the larger boat will bring, you can buy a second one and a third one and so on until you have an entire fleet of trawlers.
Instead of selling your fish to a middle man, you can negotiate directly with the processing plants and maybe even open your own plant.”
“You can then leave this little village and move to Mexico City, Los Angeles, or even New York City! From there you can direct your huge enterprise.”
“How long would that take?” asked the Mexican.
“Twenty, perhaps twenty-five years,” replied the American.
“And after that?”
“Afterwards? That’s when it gets really interesting,” answered the American, laughing. “When your business gets really big, you can start selling stock and make millions!”
“Millions? Really? And after that?”
“After that — and this is the best part — you’ll be able to retire, live in a tiny village near the coast, sleep late, catch a few fish, take a siesta, and spend your evenings drinking and enjoying your friends!”
Our whole lives can fly by us through busy-ness and distraction, grasping after the next ‘hit’ of some ‘thing’ that will somehow make us complete. Maybe if we are still and at ease the true clarity required to successfully navigate our way through life can dawn.
I’ve been a little quiet recently, living in the void, befriending uncertainty. It’s been an interesting time full of fertile ground for working with my mind. Let’s face it, it is s&*t when we don’t get what we want! I guess I’m quite used to getting what I want but I’m learning, at present, that life doesn’t always work that way. This is not to say that I always get what I want but, I guess, it is usually pretty clear what the outcome will be. This means that I can accept what comes to me and move on from it. Recently, I have been living in the void though; not really knowing what the outcome will be. It seems that every time I think a particular outcome has manifested, it changes. It’s kind of like I’m being told ‘here you go again, you got comfortable and complacent so the rug will be pulled out from under you again now until you learn.’ Learn what? I guess until I learn that nothing is certain and that the Hollywood ‘happily ever after’ conclusion to things is a myth. There is no end point. It will just keep on changing.
So what does one do when living in an extended period in uncertainty? My response has been to want to rush through it to some kind of conclusion but, this time, it’s just not working that way. I’m doing what I can but I can’t rush.There is nowhere to go. I just have to wait. However, I have discovered that waiting on the edge of my seat, chewing my fingernails while the butterflies dance manically in my stomach is no way to live and my adrenal glands certainly don’t like it! This has forced me to review my situation and my entire world view to some degree. It has taught me a lot.
Firstly, what makes those happy people happy? The wordpress prompt that I responded to in my last post got me thinking about this as I contemplated the cheerful delivery man. If I think of myself being a delivery man, I think I would be a miserable, surly delivery man – I expect too much out of life. I want too much. I’m always seeking after something else, something new, something big to fulfil my ambitions (ouch! it stings even writing this!). I’ve always been one of those people who have wanted to do something great. But I haven’t. Well, not at least in any way obvious to me. So I need to face up to that. Not in a way that says ‘why haven’t you?’ but rather in a ‘why would you think you could?’ and a ‘what is your motivation to do so?’ kind of way. I’ve realised that always seeking something ‘Big’ means I’ve been missing the ‘Little’.
So I’ve been appreciating the Littles more this week and it has been quite surprising. I’m taking more note of the small kindnesses that are shown to me and that I show to others. It’s nice. It’s enjoyable. It’s a lot less effort than striving after Big things all the time. I can relax a bit.
How does this relate to uncertainty and living in the void? Well, I don’t know how long I’ll be in the void and there may not be a foreseeable end point so I need to work with what I have got. The alternative is depression and anxiety and I’ve done those to death – I’m through with living like that. I want to be happy (or should I say, deeply contented, accepting and joyful) and if I expect that state of mind to emerge out of struggle and resistance to what is, then I am always going to me at the mercy of external circumstances and who knows what is around the corner. I, for one, certainly know of many, many people in far worse situations than my own – they would think I am mad for not being grateful for my situation and rightly so. I wish I wasn’t such a finicky, fickle and ungrateful personality. In fact, I’m done with that too!
I do need to be gentle with myself though. I’ve been a certain way for a long time (at least this life-time!); it’s a habitual way of thinking. I can and will change it though. Today the sun is shining, the air is nearly still and I am amongst the mountain tops. I have a flicker of joy and contentment warming me from within. I can feel it. It is there. I will nurture this small flame and feed it with presence and stillness and guard it from the winds of fear and grasping. In gratitude I thank those who have shown me where to look and to those who have shaped my world and co-create those moments of happiness. And a ‘hats off’ to the void. Of course you are always there.
‘Oh shit! It’s you again! I didn’t see you coming.’ Birds scatter from the sea of golden grass. ‘It looks like a storm is coming,’ you say. ‘Expect the worst.’ The wind begins to rise, dislodging 100,000 seeds into the sky. Cowering, I swallow hard. You keep telling me what’s coming next but there is something amiss with your story. It has too many holes. You keep repeating yourself. I look up. I can see light amidst the clouds. You were wrong. I always knew it. The storm passed, sliding it’s way across the still, clear sky dissolving into the rising sun. You are gone. I can breathe again. Each time you do this I grow a little wiser to your games.
So, the last few days have been pretty stressful. I have been given an excellent situation for testing my practice and keeping my cool. I have been working hard for the last few months to get my house ready to rent out and was about to hand it over to new tenants after signing leases and their lodging bond. I am supposed to be on the final stretch of packing, cleaning and general mayhem, when my tenant’s circumstances change – nooooooo! This is the last thing I want to hear! Finding great tenants and having them move in is the keystone for my plans for the next 12 months and beyond. It represents a significant turning point. I was so close. I could taste relief. And now… uncertainty all over again.
My garden in the snow
Yes, uncertainty was, of course, always there but I got cocky and assumed that things would flow smoothly according to plan. This attitude was a mistake, a delusion. I was in the realm of hope, instead of reality, and the bubble burst suddenly. Need I remind myself that the unforeseen can arise at any moment!
So, now I go about the process of finding someone new. While I’m doing all I can to remedy the situation, my mind is not very happy to say the least. ‘What if this?’ and ‘what if that?’ It paints so many dire scenarios, running hither and thither in the realm of thought and disturbing emotions.
Fortunately, I have some perspective and some amazing methods that I have been taught for bringing my mind home from all this craziness. My teacher, Sogyal Rinpoche, speaks repeatedly about transforming our minds. ‘When we have an attitude or a bad mood we need to simply transform our minds’ he says. For a long time I kind of new what this meant but, this morning, the penny dropped. I was sitting on my couch with a cup of cocao watching a clip of Rinpoche teaching and I could feel the anxiety and worry writhing within me. At the moment, I tend to wake up in the morning and quickly start thinking about the house and my worries. The tension builds and builds and I feel so uncomfortable.
Anyway, watching Rinpoche speak about transforming the mind this morning and reflecting how I obviously do need to transform the atmosphere of my mind, I could see clearly what that choice is. It’s pretty simple actually. I get in a mood. I can stay there or I can transform it. I now have various means for transforming my mind (such as meditation, watching a teaching, doing something for someone else, feeling the pain I hold with compassion, love and openness to myself etc). Interestingly, however, I observed how much resistance there is to dropping the mood. It’s crazy, why on earth would I want to hold onto it?
As I reflect on this question, various responses come to mind: fear of letting go, not trusting things will be ok, needing to be in control, but I think what underpins all of these responses is a confusion about how things work. I think, somehow, that I need to figure it all out, that I need to ‘solve’ the problem through thinking about it, that if I just keep thinking about it often enough that it will miraculously be resolved. ‘Aha! I’ve found the solution!’ On reflection, I have already found the solution, I need to find new tenants and I do this by advertising the house and letting people inspect the place. I’m doing this but it takes time. My clinging to how I want things to pan out and thinking incessantly about all the things that can go wrong plays no role in how things turn out whatsoever! In fact, and this is where the magic I have spoken about before comes in, the more I drop these thoughts, let go and transform my mind, then the circumstances change. Again, I can’t really explain this but I’ve observed it repeatedly.
So, now I know that if, when I become aware of that mood building, I make the choice to use a skilful method to transform my mind by dropping all the negative thoughts underpinning this state of anxiety, my mind will relax and release, abiding spaciously, and my circumstances change. This is not that hard really. It’s funny though as I can feel that anxious little part of me going ‘noooo! I want to stay anxious. I want it to happen now, the way I want it to!’ It’s pretty funny actually when you think about it. If I follow the magic recipe things will work out but that anxious ‘little me’ wants to ‘sort it out.’ This is not to say that I don’t need to take any action to find someone to rent my house but these steps are obvious and easy and, beyond that, there is nothing else to do but to relax my mind and wait. As the great Buddhist master, Shantideva, said
If you can solve your problem, then what is the need of worrying? If you cannot solve it, then what is the use of worrying?
When I speak of the ‘magic’, I have observed on numerous occasions recently that, when I am really able to drop what is bugging my mind and feel the spacious clarity that begins to dawn as I let go, that is when something shifts. I might receive an inquiry about the house or I have a positive interaction with someone who has come to view the place. If nothing else, I feel calm and confident about the situation and may think of another good way of advertising the place or making it more attractive to people.
So this is where taking responsibility comes into it. I can stay in the mood, while it builds and boils to the point of melt down, or I can transform my mind, knowing now, through direct experience, that I will definitely feel better. If I really, genuinely want to be happy, the choice is obvious. If I don’t, what does this say about me and how I think? It’s purely habit. I am so used to thinking, doing, struggling, trying as a means of finding happiness and now that I know that it does not work this way, I feel groundless and vulnerable – how weird! It feels uncomfortable because I am so used to being this way and of trying to control things. However, something has got to change. Picking endlessly at the scab of frustration, fear, control and anxiety has not really been working for me. So it is time to let go, enter that space of groundlessness and just see what happens. I have to do this. I can see now that if I don’t, nothing will ever really change.
DP writing challenge: ‘Expectations’ http://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_writing_challenge/great-expectations/
Expectation is a story comprised of layered thoughts set one on top another like paper mache, glued with emotions such as fear, attachment and pride. Expectation forms like a scab on the surface of our experience. Once scratched it’s flimsy surface tears away, leaving a glimpse of the raw and gory truth inside. This scab is inflexible and tight and leaves a scar. While expectations met bring a measured dose of excitement (enough to feed the addiction), this quickly fades into boredom and apathy. Rapidly the mind, once again, conceives of and re-builds a new set of expectations and associated story lines, unless we should fall for that same old story again – you remember the time I expected chocolate to make me feel better; it made me feel better for awhile; and then it made me sick? I’ve done that more than once!
Expectations come at us from all directions (including from within). Some we make our own. Some we disregard. Where did they all begin? I can only guess not long after birth… ‘I expect to be fed…mwah!’ Who knows, maybe even before?
Other people’s expectations, as heavy as lead, can weigh on us like compound interest. If they support the story of ‘me’ and who I think ‘I’ ought to be (even if that is a negative self-image) then we accept them, believe them and even worship them, infusing them with power, submitting to them like we have no choice.
Expectation can sometimes be ‘hope’. Not aspirational hope that warmly guides us towards a more positive state of being but the hope that eats your stomach lining; gives you insomnia; the one you want to believe in but aren’t quite convinced; and whose close ally is fear.
Expectation can also be stubborn ignorance. ‘How could that have possibly happened? This cant’ happen to me!’ It hides in the shadows, structures our thinking and shapes our experience. Ironically, you may know, through reason, something to be the truth (such as that I will die) but subtly expect some other outcome.
Life can become one great series of misguided expectations, toppling down one after another like a stack of dominoes. The odd one might escape but, largely, they surmount to not much more than a pile of fallen pieces waiting to be rebuilt, lost or put in a box and returned to the cupboard.
What is the best strategy for dealing with expectations? See them, acknowledge how they have shaped your life and dismiss them like you would a stuffed lion that you formerly took for real. They are but transient ideas that we have held onto or feared, put on a pedestal and made offerings to. They are only as powerful as we let them be. Dropping them can be scary at first (especially for the first time) but once we taste the ensuing freedom, that sweet liberation, it is clear what choice to make.
I wasn’t quite happy with ‘anna’s pursuit of happiness’, which is kind of ironic. ‘Pursuing happiness’ places happiness out there somewhere in the future, which doesn’t really work, Why? Because happiness can only exist in the present.If felt too much like a donkey chasing a carrot suspended over it’s nose attached via a rod to it’s own back – hopefully you know the image I’m referring too – always just a bit out of reach! Reading it left me with a subtle sense of insatiability and unease, like I was hankering after something that may not be possible. So, I changed it!
Now I’m ‘experimenting with happiness’ and exploring means for transforming my mind in everyday life. I’m not sure if this title will stick but it is a work in progress.
So, I’ve just spent the last week at Chenrezig Institute (www.chenrezig.com.au) on the Sunshine Coast, QLD, amongst the trees receiving teachings and catching up with family. There was, as always, plenty of opportunity to transform my mind. It’s always a personal favourite working with my reaction to doing what others would like to do if it’s something I feel is pretty dull or time-wasting. It is an excellent opportunity for practicing patience and rejoicing in the happiness of others when going shopping for example! Don’t expect it to be easy at first but keep persisting, reminding yourself of their kindness, seeing this as a wonderful opportunity to stretch your patience muscles and rejoice and be happy that they are happy.
You can just simply observe your thoughts without judgement or following them up with another thought nor pushing them away. Just watch, observe and smile. Of course, you also need to give yourself a pat on the back for giving this a go and affirm your intention to practice regularly. For further information you can check out www.whatmeditationreallyis.com for other useful tips on meditation, which is what this latter technique effectively is.
I also have to remind myself that to many, including family members, my lifestyle is a bit odd and dull. I no longer go out partying, I like to be in bed pretty early and I spend a lot of time sitting still or reciting texts in a language I don’t actually speak! I hang around with other weirdo-meditators obsessing about up-coming retreats (on which I use all my annual leave) and I take pleasure in counting the number of times I bring awareness to the moment throughout the day! However, I wouldn’t have it any other way!