Posts Tagged ‘samsara’

easy rest inn

August 6th, 2011    -    4 Comments

When I was growing up we used to snicker about my dad and his hankering for road trips. He would plan for days or weeks, map alternate routes, fill the tires, top the tank, load the car, and wake us in the dark to start the drive so we could get there – wherever that was – ahead of schedule. And then he would be perfectly miserable in the place and with the people we had come to see. These trips always ended the way they began: uncomfortably early.

Near the end of his life, he made one last road trip across country to visit me. He never made it. He stopped at a hotel an hour from my home and called, asking me to come up and meet him for lunch. After a hamburger and a side of fries, he hugged me in the parking lot, turned around, and drove back the twelve hundred miles he’d come. His affliction was no longer a quirk. His sickness had prevailed and overtaken him, and he was utterly without a single square inch of home.

I ache to think of his lonely exile, but I don’t think he was so different than anyone else. His curse is mine and yours, too. The road is pitiless when the company you can neither keep nor avoid is your own. And yet, by degrees of habit, this is how we all live. We are all lost in the dark until we see the light up ahead and aim for it. There is always a light ahead. read more

how twitter works

June 7th, 2011    -    21 Comments

It doesn’t. Not really. Twitter doesn’t work. It’s like all those things you think will work that actually don’t work. Like being famous doesn’t work. Or being what you think successful is. Or admired, smart, clever, popular or quotable. Or having more followers. Or getting elected. Or getting an agent or a book deal. Or falling in love. Or getting another wife or husband or career after your last tweet doesn’t quite work. None of it works the way you’re thinking it will.

Twitter is just another name for another thing that will disappoint you, even betray you. It is an agent of your demise – the demise of how you want things to turn out.

If I could just ratchet up those numbers, cross that threshold, send more, get more, do more, have more. You know how that works.

It’s kind of fascinating that when these new things roll around we think, for a minute or two, that they will change human drama, human tragedy, or human history. Revolutionize it! They don’t. They don’t change the ending of anything. They might even hasten it. At best, they hasten the end of the dream.

The way I think of Twitter is the same way I think of advertising. And advertising doesn’t work either. I worked for more than two decades in advertising and PR, alongside great people and with great companies and I learned some great things about life and work. One of the things we all learned was that advertising and PR don’t work. Well, not quite the way you hope they will. Not like magic or make believe. Advertising only works when you have endless sums of money and you pollute the world with your advertising and then it works in the same way trees and rocks and buildings work – they show up everywhere. There’s no magic in that, no strategy or cleverness, just sheer tonnage. And endless money and hopes and dreams and schemes and silliness just circulating around like so much dust.

But when you see the dust! That’s when it begins to work. That’s when the real conversation starts. That’s worth hoping for.

Two new real-life happenings now open for registration:
The Practice of Everyday Life, weekend retreat in Colorado Sept. 16-18
The Plunge in Pittsburgh, one-day retreat right where you think it will be, Oct. 1

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2:24 a.m.

February 9th, 2011    -    9 Comments

We never need to make our lives more difficult than they are, but of course we do. Then one day life itself rises up with an irrevocable force and we suddenly find that there is nothing we can do. Here is a message I received from Rose in Amsterdam not long ago. Since then, I’ve been visiting her blog daily, where I’m struck by her elegantly sage and poetic posts about her family. What she writes is more profound than anything I can offer, and proof that compassion and wisdom are indeed self-arising. Please visit her and leave your kindness.

This afternoon I planned to write you regarding your last email almost a year ago. I wanted to tell you how grateful I was about your words and how meaningful they still are to me.

This afternoon the phone rang and my husband told me that he was called to the ER immediately. Something appeared to be wrong with his blood, which had been drawn that morning. He’s a normal healthy person who happened to feel very tired. But which parent isn’t tired? we thought. I found a babysitter for our boys (ages 1 1/2 and 3) and rushed over there. A couple of hours later he was diagnosed with leukemia.

He asked me how to cope with his tremendous fear in facing this disease and the road ahead of him. The pain. But mainly the fear. Of course I’m literally scared to death too, but it isn’t my body that has to do the fighting.

Is there anything I could tell him? Besides the fact that I love him, truly and deeply. We both aren’t religious and always try to take life as realistically as it appears in front of us. But now we feel swept from our feet, and at this time we know we need to be grounded to make the right decisions.

I read your blog daily and read how often people email you with their problems. At 2:24 in the morning, I’m one of them. I simply wish I could have sent you the email I intended to write this afternoon, when I knew my life as it was.

Love from Amsterdam,
Rose Stamet-Geurs

a little problem with suffering

January 24th, 2011    -    22 Comments

Sometimes I get a little pushback on the topic of Buddhism, particularly the subject of suffering. People say something like, “Gosh, all that talk about suffering! Aren’t you guys a bit over the top with all the suffering? That’s so negative.”

Yes, it’s true, the foundation of Buddha’s teaching is the Four Noble Truths, which usually are stated like this:

Life contains suffering
The origin of suffering is attachment
The cessation of suffering is attainable
There’s an Eightfold Path to freedom

Let me be clear. Buddhism doesn’t elevate, emphasize or worship suffering. Buddhism says, “Let’s just face the facts, people.” Despite our earnest attempts to conjure optimism, hope, abundance, luck, gratitude, aptitude, cleverness, perfect SATs, and triumphant superiority, there is nothing more universally human than having a problem.

To prove it, let’s take the word “suffering.” You might have a problem with it. Suffering sounds so big – Haitian earthquake, Tucson rampage, global warming big – when the kind of suffering most of us encounter every day is so embarrassingly trivial we might not even recognize it as suffering. More like WHO ATE THE REST OF MY MINT CHOCOLATE CHIP.

There’s all the other kinds of suffering too – like old age, sickness, death, Jersey Shore, and taxes – but we can’t really do much about those, can we? So the kind of suffering we start with is the kind that actually causes us and everyone around us the most problems AS FOR INSTANCE WHEN SOMEONE WHO SHALL REMAIN NAMELESS (YOU) ATE THE REST OF MY MINT CHOCOLATE CHIP.

So I like to state the Four Noble Truths this way:

Life is full of problems.
It always seems like my problem starts with you but it really starts with me.
It always seems like you should fix my problem but in the end it’s up to me.
I’m going to the store, want anything?

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look at why I practice

September 13th, 2010    -    9 Comments

An acknowledgment of all those who joined me yesterday at the Beginner’s Mind Meditation Retreat at the Hazy Moon Zen Center. You know who you are. More importantly, you are beginning to really know who you are.

When wisdom is a concept, look how ignorant I am in the name of wisdom.
When love is a concept, look how hateful I am in the name of love.
When charity is a concept, look how greedy I am in the name of charity.
When kindness is a concept, look how mean I am in the name of kindness.
When beauty is a concept, look at what I defile in the name of beauty.
When freedom is a concept, look who I imprison in the name of freedom.
When truth is a concept, look who I deceive in the name of truth.
When faith is a concept, look how fearful I am in the name of faith.
When peace is a concept, look how much chaos I create in the name of peace.
When life and death are concepts, look what I destroy in the name of life.

To overcome my own ignorance, hate, greed, meanness, defilement, imprisonment, deception, fear, chaos and death. This is why I practice.

If you’re on the other coast, there’s still time to join me this Sat., Sept. 18 at the Mother’s Plunge in Boston. I’ll be looking for you!

Weighing in on the fight

January 7th, 2010    -    4 Comments

Weighed in on the brouhaha over Tiger Woods & Buddhism versus Brit Hume & Christianity over at Pundit Mom, and I’m still 10 pounds over my fighting weight!

Come over and see what happened when I spit out my mouthpiece.

It’s your mother calling

October 6th, 2009    -    9 Comments

All wisdom is a matter of call and response.

The sun comes up, your eyelids flutter.

The bell rings, you answer.
Work appears, you do it.
Mail arrives, you open.
Sadness fills, you cry.
A stranger nears, you smile.
A crack opens, you fall.
Hunger rises, you eat.
Quiet descends, you quiet.

All struggle is resistance to response.

That’s why I will always respond.
Announcing June 12 in Seattle.

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The secret is out

September 20th, 2009    -    10 Comments

Back when The Secret was making the world spin, I read a blogger rave about it. It seemed every time she applied the technique, she found a choice parking spot at her favorite shopping center. The kind you never get. It feels good to find a parking spot, and with such a modest gain, the woman didn’t think she was being greedy. But then I wondered, “Why doesn’t she just give the parking spot to someone else and feel really good?”

It’s no secret. These things keep bubbling up like hot wax and we get stuck in gooey dissatisfaction and self-service. We may think we know a secret, but we’re always exposed for who we are. We’re just the last to see it.

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Peek inside my medicine chest

September 18th, 2009    -    26 Comments

It’s the time to reach for a tonic.

For fatigue: Be tired.
For impatience: Be still.
For inflammation: Chill.
For despair: Empty completely.
For fear of getting nothing done: Get nothing done.
For having no time: Take time.
For lack of love: Love.
For disappointment: Dance.
For inadequacy: Give.
For no reason: Be unreasonable.
For others, pray.

For these and all other symptoms, exhale.

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Still blowing smoke

September 1st, 2009    -    1 Comment

Thank you to all who have asked about us here in Los Angeles. Everyone who has said a prayer, offered a place, a shrug, a sigh. Some of you know our little town, our mother mountain, which is downslope of the beast. Conditions seem to be turning today, no better day than this. I posted this piece on Shambhala SunSpace because of the marvelous teaching that comes ready made in the smell of smoke. The fire is massive, and I wouldn’t be surprised if you can smell it too.

“Diligently practice the Way as though putting a fire out on top of your head.”

There is engaging language in my spiritual tradition, in the old writing and the poetic phrases. It’s easy to take the language as inspiration or as metaphor, inclined as we are to analyze everything for deep meaning and exalted purpose. This is what religious scholars do, what intellectuals do, and it’s obvious why. We can almost never believe that things are simple or straightforward, that they are what they are. What do we use our brains for if not figuring things out? Everything has to mean something else.

I’ve heard a phrase more or less like the one above many times and thought it conveyed urgency and desperation. It does. But then I saw with my own eyes this week the startling science of extinguishing fires. How you put out a fire is exactly how you should practice. How you put out a fire on the ground is exactly how you put out the fire on your head – your insane, compulsively anxious, fearful ego mind.

Like you, I wish practice was merely a matter of writing this post, or reading a book, or making a list, or thinking positive thoughts, or losing five pounds. But I’ve seen the firefighters, and how they practice. They do not waste a moment to theory, philosophy, inspiration or appearances. This is what I learned with my own eyes:

Read the rest and leave a comment on “The Laundry Line”
my blog at Shambhala SunSpace

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The world needs a homemaker

August 4th, 2009    -    28 Comments

Forgive the double posting from The Laundry Line, but this is so very important to see everywhere we look:

Last week I attended a retreat and came home infused with quiet calm and well-being. Then I glanced at the headlines in the newspaper and was shocked anew at the unimaginable depth of pain in this world. The scope of suffering is inconceivable. How can we respond in the face of this? Where do we begin to do good? I will tell you the only way I know to begin.

Empty the full hampers, sort and wash the laundry without resentment or commentary.

Sweep the floor of dust, mud and crumbs at your feet.

Don’t ask who made the mess.

At the grocery store, give your place in line to the person behind you.

Ask the checker how her day is going, and mean it.

On the way out, give your pocket money to the solicitor at the card table no matter what the cause.

Buy a cup of lemonade from the kids on the sidewalk stand. Tell them to keep the change.

Roll down your car window when you see the homeless man on the corner with the sign. Give him money. Have no concern over what he will do with it.

Smile at him. It will be the first smile he has seen in a very long time.

Write a thank you letter. Yes, a letter. If you do not have a reason to write one, do it without a reason.

Do not fight with your partner, your roommate, your spouse, or your children. If that seems impossible, just do not engage in the next fight, and don’t worry about the one that comes after. It might not come.

Do not try to convince anyone else of your point of view. That’s why they call it “point” of view. The point is just you.

If you feel yourself tensing in frustration, no matter what the circumstance, say, “I’m sorry.”

Do not indulge in despair over the futility of your impact or question the outcome.

Make yourself at home and take care of it as your own. It’s the only one there is.

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The half-life of Susan Boyle

July 26th, 2009    -    8 Comments

Half-life: The time required for something to fall to half its initial value

Last week my nine-year-old was in the chorus at what was billed as an All Stars Concert for 60 kids in a summer theater program.

Just do the math and you know that 60 kids can’t All be Stars but try selling that to the kids or their parents who paid admission.

The day before the show, she fairly exploded with expectation. Then show time came. We couldn’t see her in the second row of 60 kids sing her heart out, but we know she did a fine job. Walking to the car after, she said, “I’m depressed.” Stardom will do that, apparently. The high lasts through one rendition of “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious!” before you’re slammed back to the hard pavement of the parking lot, as we see so painfully time after time.

I mean no insult to my daughter, or anyone else’s ambition, but our cult of stardom, this collective craving for instant inflation, the plucked-from-obscurity-to-overnight-hysteria thing, has me vaguely ill, as though I’ve been overfed.

We seem to have become sensation junkies. Each week a new sensation goes viral, whether it’s astonishment à la Boyle, grief à la Jackson, or this week’s cherry on top, the wedding dance being sensationalized for its “novel way of sharing matrimonial joy.”

Everyone puts on a good show. Indeed, All are Stars.

But gravity always has the last word. The simple cruelty of physics brought Susan Boyle swiftly low and likewise ensured that Michael would never rise to the occasion. I too, feel depressed, after I blow up ballooning expectations that inevitably blow up.

Now we have newlyweds that have reached, within a month of their nuptials, a summit that will surely never be scaled again. Two Today Show appearances in two days. Perhaps next they’ll be invited to have a beer at the White House. I know a thing or two about marriage, and this honeymoon would be hard for any ordinary couple to recover from.

Most of us have never seen anything like it, but there’s a veritable YouTube subgenre of choreographed wedding dances out there, the couples spreading their ambition for matrimonial joy by breaking into breakdance and hip hop, then posting it on YouTube just for friends and family. Tell me: are you surprised? These plucky couples and their videos feed the diet of morning news shows which are front and center in the televised wedding business. Weddings are already afflicted with an increasingly outrageous need to trump all. Don’t you know thousands, maybe millions, of betrotheds are now scrambling to top a new bar in the wedding-as-viral-video department?

When did we stop seeing the obvious? Viruses make us sick, and can even kill.

I hope Georgia picks herself up and keeps going for the love of performing. I hope Susan Boyle endures for the love of song. I hope the happy couple stays together in anonymity and health, as I wish for all couples. And I hope Michael Jackson rests in eternal peace.

As for me, I’m going away to a place where I can practice spreading another kind of sensation: obscurity.

Don’t worry, you’re safe. It’ll never go viral.

Don’t wrap your head around this

July 23rd, 2009    -    3 Comments

How can we fully illumine our life and personality with the moon of truth? We need first to calm the surging waves by halting the winds of discursive thought. We must empty our minds of the “conceptual thought of man.” Most people place a high value on abstract thought, but Buddhism has clearly demonstrated that discriminative thinking lies at the root of delusion. I once heard someone say, “Thought is the sickness of the human mind.” From the Buddhist point of view this is quite true. To be sure, abstract thinking is useful when wisely employed – which is to say, when its nature and limitations are property understood – but as long as human beings remain slaves to their intellect, fettered and controlled by it, they can well be called sick.

To be continued

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