Posts Tagged ‘Equanimity’

a poem about feelings

January 13th, 2016    -    1 Comment

Stonehenge-Clouds

don’t be curious about clouds

where they come, where they go

water in the sky

be curious about water

be curious about sky

cave painters who chiseled rocks

painted in blood,

burnt bones,

piss and spit

never stayed in caves

be curious about rocks

be curious about blood

come out come out

be curious about sky

be curious about water

flowing

Stonehenge, still standing after thousands of years, was, apparently, quarried and originally constructed at a Neolithic site in Wales; many centuries later, it was taken apart and pulled on sledges about a hundred and forty miles east, to be rebuilt at its present location.*

 

6 steps to a mindful argument

November 10th, 2013    -    4 Comments

images-1

1. Stop talking
2. Inhale
3. Exhale
4. Listen
5. Smile
6. Repeat as needed

Because when you stop arguing, the argument stops.

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the rolls of a lifetime

July 16th, 2011    -    5 Comments

The role of a parent in the life of a child: Patience
The role of a child in the life of a parent: Impatience
The role of a partner in the life of a relationship: Acceptance
The role of a relationship in the life of a partner: Irritation
The role of a teacher in the life of a student: Demonstration
The role of a student in the life of a teacher: Attention
The role of toil, trouble, disappointment and inconvenience: Service
The role of anger: Equanimity
The role of hatred: Love
The role of enemies: Harmony
The role of community: Solitude
The role of light, food, shelter and air: Generosity
The role of the self:  None*

*Which means replace the empty roll while you’re at it.

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The merit of no merit

January 10th, 2010    -    12 Comments

The other day I sewed a half dozen new merit badges on a girl scout sash. Since my daughter graduated in the scouting ranks her new sash has been empty. The flag patch waves on her slim shoulder; the troop numbers march across her collar bone; but the merit was entirely missing. We studied the scouting book and decided that – lookee there! – several of her passionate pastimes already measured up for an award without doing anything more. We skipped the fine print in favor of a quick feather or two.

Honestly, how good does a good kid have to get?

The merit of a badge is equal to the merit of a mother sewing on the badge, which is to say, there is no merit. But I forget. I keep thinking there’s something for me to figure out, something to get, something to show. That there’s something that good mothers do, and some way that good daughters prove it. I’m always wrong about that.

She paraded off to school with six new badges to flash. They don’t mean a thing. But it’s a nice wide sash, this margin of error, this no-badge of honor, where good girls grow up by themselves and mothers simply stop keeping score.

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Cleverness is serviceable

August 22nd, 2009    -    15 Comments

Cleverness is serviceable for everything, sufficient for nothing – Fortune cookie

I once got a fortune cookie that said that. Not exactly. This guy said it first. I was so impressed that I kept the slip of paper in my wallet for about 20 years. Eventually I cleaned out my wallet, it might please you to know, but you can see how dear these words are to me still. Needless to say, the fortune came true. It is the truest fortune I’ve ever seen. It is the truest fortune there is. It is everyone’s fortune.

What does it mean?

Surely you know. You’re smart and clever. Perhaps too smart and clever. Cleverness works, for a time. You can look “serviceable” up in the dictionary. You can figure some stuff out. You can get better at certain things. You can acquire knowledge and skills. You can work harder and longer. Figure out Twitter. Get a leg up on the next thing. You can do more, be better liked, with a bigger reputation. You can set a goal and maybe even reach it. And then another. And another.

But is it ever sufficient?

As long as you are in the realm of cleverness, it is not sufficient. By that I mean, as long as you are in the realm of judging yourself and your life as being one way or the other (good/no good, full/empty, success/fail, made/not made) it is not sufficient. How do you know? Because you will still feel insufficient. You will still feel as though there is something more, better, greater and more fulfilling for you to get. At the same time, it will seem as though there are a few charmed folks on the other side of the scale who already “got” it. But I promise you, whatever it looks like they “got,” they didn’t “get” nearly enough.

You can acquire many things through cleverness, but sufficiency is not one of them.

That being said, cleverness is serviceable for something truly wonderful and life altering. Cleverness will bring you to the last gasp of cleverness; to the end of judgment, greed and envy; to the brink of chronic dissatisfaction and despair. It will bring you to the starting point for sufficiency. A chance to be content with things as they are, the fortune you already possess, the potential for deep and radiating joy, and a life that goes far beyond anything you can engineer.

How do I know? It brought you here.

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Just sayin

July 9th, 2009    -    9 Comments


“I often see those who are trying to study Buddhism just use their worldly intelligence to sift among the verbal teachings of the buddhas and ancestral teachers, trying to pick out especially wondrous sayings to use as conversation pieces to display their ability and understanding. This is not the correct view of the matter. You must abandon your worldly mentality and sit quietly with mind silent. Forget entangling causes and investigate with your whole being. When you are thoroughly clear then whatever you bring forth from your own inexhaustible treasure of priceless jewels is sure to be genuine and real.”

Zen Letters: Teaching of Yuanwu (1063-1135)

A practice without a practice is not a practice.

To settle the matter, settle the matter.

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A squirt in the eye

July 2nd, 2009    -    20 Comments

When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.

What’s wrong with a lemon being a lemon, I wonder, and lemonade standing alone? Each is perfect as it is, with its own time and purpose. The refrain points out again just how much we value one thing over another: choosing the sweet over the sour, concocting a so-called positive out of the perceived negative, manufacturing candy to camouflage life’s authentic and irreplaceable flavor. Candy only gets you so far, and so does conventional wisdom like this.

When life gives you lemons, let the lemons be. Sour has a sweetness all its own, and a season, like all seasons, that doesn’t last.

Cut off her head with a pencil

March 28th, 2009    -    18 Comments


A reader wrote the other day with a bit of earnest confusion that gave me a quick tickle. Earnestness tends to promote hilarity. She said she’d finished the book and pretty much liked it until part of the last chapter that she didn’t understand.

Frankly, I can never imagine how my writing perplexes. To me, I’m always blathering about the most literal, obvious, barenaked things. Perhaps I can’t imagine the confusion because I’m so lousy at imagining.

The reader wondered if by skipping over the evil parts of fairy tales when reading to my wee daughter, did I do that for Buddhist reasons?

This is a very good question, and one that few would be sincere enough to ask.

Did I do it to overcome dualism? So that I didn’t present the dichotomy of good versus bad? Did I likewise edit out so-called good parts? To teach nonjudgmental equanimity? Which is to say, even-mindedness?

This is a question that points to the very trouble with Buddhism.

I laughed the moment I saw it, because no philosophy, Buddhist or otherwise, has ever guided my parenting. Philosophies aren’t very effective at guiding anything. It’s like learning how to drive by studying the motor vehicle code.

So I want to take a minute to make it clear. Many people want to be better, to do good, to raise better children, to save the world, to promote peace, etc. etc. and they reach for a philosophy to do it. Buddhism seems like a pretty nice one. But then, all philosophies are pretty nice ones. They just don’t ever seem to change behavior very much. (See items 1-10.)

What I apply in parenting is not an ideology or worldview, it is not Buddhism or any -ism. It is the magnificent, miraculous, intelligent, intuitive product of Buddhist practice. What I apply, on those lucky days I can find it, is attention.

Attention is what works when I crack open a Disney Read-Aloud Princess Storybook and see that the evil stepmother is about to dispatch an axeman to lop off Snow White’s head. Attention alerts me that it is an inappropriate and unwelcome image to insert into my baby’s silky haired noggin, especially at bedtime. So I skip it, and when my girl points to the picture of the hatchet and asks what it is, I say, “a pencil.”

Until you practice, you might have a hard time believing that attention alone can spontaneously direct and correct behavior without the substructure of a philosophy. A set of prescribed rights and wrongs. Or in the Buddhist sense, a set of prescribed non-right rights and non-wrong wrongs.

People are fond of saying about their chosen ethics or morality, “How else will we know right from wrong?” And I ask this: beneath your skin, in your bones, within your heart, have you ever not known right from wrong? Just attend to that knowing.

Attention alone is what assuages anger, abates greed, and promotes kindness. Attention alone is even-minded. Attention is love, and love always knows what to do.

I’m so glad you wrote and brought it to my attention.

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