Posts Tagged ‘True Nature’

The long curve of kindness

January 5th, 2011    -    50 Comments

Love is kind. 1 Corinthians 13:4

There is a lot of talk about love. There is a lot of talk about kindness. There is a lot of talk about something we might think is a high-potency spiritual blend of the two called lovingkindness. Oh, that’s the kind of kindness I want!

Everything we say about these things is one degree removed from the thing itself. But here I go in my infinite unkindness.

Lovingkindness is the absolutely emptied, undisturbed, vast and open state of mind we realize through meditation practice. Here she goes about practice again. I’ll find my brand of kindness somewhere else!

There is nothing else.

At the bottom, beneath it all, without any intention or elaboration, is lovingkindness. It is what we are; it is what everything is, as it is. When you actually experience it, not just talk about it, you find out for yourself. These days some people in the “help” business might sprinkle the mumbo-jumbo of Buddhist lingo on top of their talk to give it a little spiritual flavor. But unless you practice, the language alone is unfulfilling. It is inauthentic. When you serve it, no one can taste the truth. What is true?

Being is love; being is kind.

It is immediate and eternal. It is ever-present, absent the insidious self-centered spin we persist in putting on things.

Kindness is the long, gentle, never-ending curve we walk on.

Kindness is what we breathe. Kindness is what we eat, when we are not swallowing the bitter aftertaste of our own unkindness. The kindness of real food is what nourishes and sustains life, which is an act of love. read more

forget what you call it

July 21st, 2010    -    43 Comments

OK friends. I am officially now part of the problem. In Zen we call this kind of talk “going into the weeds” and I caution you not to get entangled in the vines. Here are my worthless opinions on the meanings of some commonly misunderstood Buddhist terms and why I think they are so easily misjudged.

DISCLAIMER: Notice that I just used the words problem, opinion, meaning, misunderstood, why, think and misjudge at the same time. Watch your step, and don’t take my word for any of this.

Glossary of Misconceptions

Attachment – Oooh la la. We think attachment means loving devotion, as in “attached at the hip.” But sometimes that isn’t love, is it? When we’re intoxicated by romance (or just intoxicated) we might want to stay attached forever. Don’t leave me! I can’t live without you! But attachment becomes uncomfortable and confining, suffocating and debilitating. And it doesn’t only mean clinging to what we like, it also means rejecting what we don’t like. Attachments are desires and aversions that we can’t let go of; the places we get emotionally, physically and mentally stuck. Life itself never sticks. So when an attachment gets ripped from our grasp by the ebb and sway of life as it is, we hurt. Attachments are the source of our suffering and unfulfillment. Can we ever let ourselves stop hurting? Can we ever be satisfied and happy with life as it is? The dark truth is that we are often attached to our suffering. We relive it over and over in our minds and reignite familiar, painful feelings. Sometimes we’re not quite sure who we would be if we didn’t have our unfulfillment to fill us up. The funny thing is, when we drop an attachment we find out that we’ve lost nothing at all.

Non-attachment – Boo hiss! Who wants non-attachment? That sounds downright sinister and at the very least indifferent. But non-attachment isn’t inhumane, unconcerned or indifferent. It simply means that when the ebb and sway of life carries us along, we can let go because we see all of it in a different way. It doesn’t create the absence of feeling or smug disregard. It allows instead the complete acceptance of all feelings and circumstances as they are, empty and impermanent. We hurt, and then we stop hurting. We grieve, and then we stop grieving. We are free. When we truly love someone or something, we grant them freedom from our own preferences. We neither clutch nor reject. Non-attachment is the nature of life itself: it keeps going. Non-attachment allows us to love one another and life as it is regardless of whether we like it right now or not. It gives rise to trust and cultivates faith in something far greater than what we wish: life as it is. Non-attachment is selfless compassion.

Ego – Uh-oh. Now the party’s over. Who invited the deadly sins? Envy, anger, greed, pride and all the rest are sure signs of ego. Thankfully I don’t have any of those symptoms if I do say so myself! There: that’s ego too. Ego is you when you are talking to yourself. “I like this; I don’t like that. I think so; I don’t think so. I agree; I disagree.” Ego is the voice of the thinking mind, the mind that conceives, perceives, measures, judges, evaluates, picks and chooses, likes and dislikes, clutches and rejects from the standpoint of a separate “I.” There is nothing wrong with ego, or thinking. Only most of your thoughts are not pleasant, and egoism is by nature self-serving and fearful. The attachment to ego is our most pernicious attachment. Still, we do not aim to destroy ego, just suspend its driving privileges! read more

Labors lost

December 22nd, 2009    -    11 Comments

“If you don’t see the Way you don’t see it even as you walk on it.” – The Identity of Relative and Absolute

In this week of returns and revelations, I’m leaving sand on your doorstep with a few repeat posts. Enjoy your time!

At the risk of shattering all illusions you might have about how a Buddhist priest is supposed to live, I will tell you that I am vacationing with my extended family on a remote, but not too remote, Pacific island. It is not too remote, considering it is the number one holiday air travel destination for Southern Californians, such Californians including D-list celebrities like the one we think we spied doing calisthenics on the stretch of lawn beside our own.

I find myself here because life, or dharma, provides in all ways visible and invisible. My family is hospitable, you see. We get along. We share. We like one another’s company. For at least a week, that is, when one particularly generous sister has sprung for a seven-day rental of a beachfront home with separate bedrooms, baths and high-speed Internet for all.

I am lucky. I am so terribly lucky, and I’ve done nothing at all to earn it. One night’s stay in a place like this and right away I realize how lucky I am. It takes several more days to realize that I don’t have to do anything to earn it. Don’t have to do anything for merit or reward. Don’t have to use the time wisely. Don’t have to busy myself producing something. Don’t have to crack open the computer and write something. Don’t have to double-back and finish up the project I left undone. Don’t have to hurry; don’t have to crack down. Don’t have to deny; don’t have to forbear. Don’t have to ponder, wish or strategize. Don’t have to be someone else, doing something other than nothing at all.

Every time I take a vacation, I confront the obvious truth in the plain sight of our language. To vacation is to vacate. Vacate my own timeline, my own agenda, my own expectations, my own grind, my own restlessness and deep-rooted exasperation. Renouncing my point of view is true renunciation. I can enjoy the hot tub without a second thought.

When I finally empty my head and open my hands I find my tongue with a native’s ease.

Aloha!

The hula could take longer.

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Least grain

December 20th, 2009    -    9 Comments


“If you don’t see the Way you don’t see it even as you walk on it.” – The Identity of Relative and Absolute

In this week of returns and revelations, I’m leaving sand on your doorstep with a few repeat posts. Enjoy your time!

We are weekending at a shimmery stretch of coastline known as Crystal Cove. It is one of my husband’s most sentimentally favorite places. We spent his 40th birthday here ___ years ago. It was the site of our first family vacation, when Georgia was nine months old, the disbelieving dawn of my awareness that I could leave the house for more than an hour at a time.

Back then, it was a week of firsts. Georgia crawled for the first time, putt-putting in a forward sway across the putrid shag carpet in our beach rental. We shopped nearby in Laguna Beach, where I stepped inside a clothing shop for the first time since giving birth and let a wise saleswoman cajole me out of my baggy sweat pants and back into a facsimile of me. I carried my cranky girl twice daily down the lonely curve of sand and saw for the first time how she dropped straightaway to sleep to nothing but the sound of the ocean.

Shwoosh
Shwoosh

Shwoosh

That discovery alone saved our lives every day and night for the next four years.

Shwoosh
Shwoosh

And now it is a weekend of returns and repeats. The cove of beach cottages has been lately reclaimed and restored, and although it lightly approaches the Disneyfication that passes as some kind of global standard of entertainment, it as raw and real as only the ocean can be. My younger sister, a recent transplant from Texas, now lives nearby and, more than that, genuinely occupies our lives. Enough proof for me that in this ceaseless cycle of comings and goings, there is a perfect order and rhythm that can never be foretold.

Shwoosh
Shwoosh

Shwoosh

On the beach nearby us was a young couple with a tantruming two-year-old wrangling out of their clutches as they tried to slather him with sunscreen. He roared and wailed above the pounding surf. I can see now how in the life of a two-year-old nearly everything is an outrage and an imposition; nearly everything is foisted at them with the rudest of good intentions. Now I understand the screams, although for most of that year Georgia and I went nose to nose in mutual mortification.

Shwoosh
Shwoosh

Today I heard the waves, the same old waves, anew. The ocean tells us over and over to accord ourselves with the rhythm of life, with the movement of life, like grains of sand on the beach, lifted up and carried back, sunken deep and then roiled forward again, staying nowhere, flung through air and water to what is but the next temporary abode, the impermanent address, and that it is only in this change itself, this perpetual unrest, holding nothing, that we can ever find true rest.

All that and hot dogs too.

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Muddy water world

July 22nd, 2009    -    2 Comments

Between a supremely perfected Buddha and us, who are ordinary, there is no difference as to substance. This “substance” can be likened to water. One of the salient characteristics of water is its conformability: when put into a round vessel it becomes round, when put into a square vessel it becomes square. We have this same adaptability, but as we live bound and fettered through ignorance of our true nature, we have forfeited this freedom. To pursue the metaphor, we can say that the mind of a Buddha is like water that is calm, deep, and crystal clear, and upon which the moon of truth reflects fully and perfectly. The mind of the ordinary man, on the other hand, is like murky water, constantly being churned by the gales of delusive thought and no longer able to reflect the moon of truth. The moon nonetheless shines steadily upon the waves, but as the waters are roiled we are unable to see its reflection. Thus we lead lives that are frustrating and meaningless.

To be continued

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Quietly study this

January 15th, 2009    -    21 Comments


The deadlines are past, the chance has run out, but you should quietly study this. The dinner is cold, the time has gone, but you should quietly study this. The bills are due, the check is late, but you should quietly study this. The clothes have shrunk, the socks have holes, but you should quietly study this. The market has tanked, the airplane has sunk, the world’s come undone, but you should quietly study this. The day is done, the year barely here and yet gone, everything yes everything disappears, but you should quietly study this.

Quietly study this and let go.

What a brilliant sky.

The teaching of the grandmother sycamores in my backyard.

Forgive us our misconceptions

December 12th, 2008    -    15 Comments


A gospel in two parts.

The other night my book group met at the mall (you read that right!) for a quick dinner and an even quicker discussion of our latest read, the most pathologically unfunny franchise of bestselling books I’ve ever encountered. We did this with our hearts in the right place, having dutifully taken up the task of spending money to help those less fortunate than we, a faceless group that has, in these torturous last months, come perilously close to resembling ourselves.

We had absolutely nothing to say about the book, which filled most of us with silent gratitude to be done with it once and for all.

So the conversation turned to other things, other less frivolous things, thankfully not politics but the circumstantially relevant topic of religion.

It is easy to think of your religion as the religion. And by that I mean the right one. I sat at the far end of the table literally and figuratively.

First came the question of whether Jesus had brothers and if so, who they were. That brought up the subject of Mary’s imagined life as the wife of Joseph and mother of mortals and the implications of conception, immaculate and otherwise.

The most authoritative Catholic in the group appraised us all of the doctrinal meaning of “immaculate conception” which may not be the conception you, or I for that matter, were conceiving of, that is, the virginal conception of Baby Jesus. Rather, it refers to the concept of Mary’s own conception as a human being born without sin. We outliers on the far end voiced misconceptions about all these conceptions, and the devout one said, Google it.

Google it is the modern-day conversation stopper. But then, that’s what dogma is designed to do. Stop conversation.

So we stopped talking and each went on separate pilgrimage for socks, scarves, hats, books, toys and a shred of holiday warmth for some unknown poor family. It was easy to conceive of them wandering in the chill outside the high walls of this nearly empty temple, immaculately lit on this eve like an ancient shrine to economic redemption.

Part two.

I doubt that any of us did any Googling on the dinner topic when we got home. The next morning came an email followup inviting us all to convert our erroneous thinking about the immaculate conception by clicking a link to a page in Wikipedia. I encourage you all likewise to go look at it right now while I keep quiet and ponder these things in my heart.

Pondering.

How about it? When I looked at it I thought: Has there ever been a more faith-defying argument, explanation, fabrication, extrapolation, interpretation or complication than this? Holy catechism! Buying all that takes a lot more intellectual credit than I have on hand!

I can fathom how the doctrine came about. Catholicism venerates Mary as an intercessor, and so divinely sanctified she must be made to be. But I was raised a good Lutheran (which is to say, a bad Lutheran) and we didn’t make so much of Mary. Except some of us little Lutheran girls prayed like hell to be cast as the comely mother in the yearly Christmas program. As you can guess, back then I never got the part. Now I see it as a part we are perpetually called to fill.

All this conceptualization is beyond us; the arguments are beneath us; they conquer and divide us when we know the really important things in life perfectly well for ourselves.

We all came together again before the night was over, setting down the blessed burdens we carried, opening up to share the modest gifts we had come to deliver. Without shame, we had used our half-price offers and twofer coupons to bring comfort to the humblest. We offered a package of girls’ white socks size XS, travel umbrellas, toys, playing cards, marked-down scarves, hats and bargain books. We saved far more money than we spent, but we still did right and we did good, without the slightest defilement of doctrinal debate.

This is the gospel few preach, but all of us, unified by inherent grace and goodness, can practice it: Doing good. There is no need to understand it. There is only a need to do it. And that’s so easy.

No matter what we believe, we’ve all been cast in the nativity pageant. No matter what our means, we have it within ourselves to deliver comfort, love and peace from our own pure hearts. Thank heaven, heaven is ours to share.

Goodbye to everything else

October 6th, 2008    -    19 Comments

This year,
My sister broke her fall
My dog broke her knee
And through it all, there was one good thing
My deal disappeared
My words dried up
And through it all, there was one good thing
My other sister lost her job
My hopes took a hit
And through it all, there was one good thing
My bank failed
My future all but vanished in a day
And through it all, there was one good thing
My country collapsed
My happy ending kaput
And through it all, there was one good thing
A good so good it cannot be called good.
A thing so vast it cannot be called a thing.
A one so many it can only be called one.

Life keeps proving it cannot be grasped.
May you be safe
May we all be safe here forever
as One.

Photo by Kevin Carden

There is only one thing for you to do

August 24th, 2008    -    15 Comments

This is so staggeringly simple you’ll want to sit down and see how it works in real life.

Compassion = No judgment
Authenticity = No deception
Freedom = No thought
Fearlessness = No ego
Love = No self

Making more of it is making it up. No need to research or study, analyze or compare. No slideware, no book, no CDs, no subscriptions. No seminars, no webcasts. No invention or interpretation.

There is only one thing for you to do. Sit down and practice. Everything else happens by itself.

Presented in public service and courtesy of a wide-eyed teacher 2,500 years ago.

Seeing in the dark

August 20th, 2008    -    12 Comments


It was past midnight when my husband nudged me in the dark. He stood by my side of the bed, fully dressed, and I was confused from early, deep dreaming.

– Can you sit with Georgia? She’s been awake for hours and I have to get some sleep.

I scrambled up. For some reason I felt happy to do it. I must have been dreaming.

In the early days, months and years, getting the tots reliably to sleep is an elusive goal, but one of those goals we keep hammering away on. We think there is some way, some place, some trick to doing it so that it sticks. Many times we hoist that congratulatory banner and do a happy dance: Mission Accomplished! But sleep is like all things, like all mysterious forces and fields. It moves in waves with the moon and moods and invisibilities. Sometimes we hit a patch, like now, when the night’s first nod is a short one, and our daughter startles awake to hours of restlessness.

It’s been a while since I was called up for this tour. Georgia prefers her daddy’s consolation at night, probably because I’m not very consoling when I have to work a double shift. Last night I went into her room and, still half-asleep, stunned her by getting under the covers of her slender twin bed. She scooched over and in minutes we were both sleeping. It was the best night of sleep I’ve had in a long time. But was I sleeping? Twisted onto a sliver of the mattress about a foot wide, ears enfolded on one side by a fuzzy dolphin, the other by a plush poodle, lulled by the gurgle of two fish tanks, I dove into a heavy doze in which I kept repeating in a marvel: I’m asleep, I’m asleep, I’m asleep. Surely, then, I was awake?

In the darkness, much later, the dog put her wet nose to mine and I rose to resettle her into the room where I had enclosed her hours before, the door still firmly latched. Perhaps that part was a dream?

Around daybreak, my daughter began to sigh and toss herself awake. We smiled and giggled at each other. It was barely 6 a.m. I told her that I’d had a good night’s sleep.

– I did too! That’s why I always wake up so early! Because I sleep so well!

This she said without any recollection of her hours of sleepless agitation. Perhaps her wakefulness was the dream? I don’t much care. I just give up, so I don’t disturb the dream. It’s the sweetest dream, and if I can keep from pinching myself, it never ends. Never, ever ends.

Photo copyright: Glenn Millington

Under the sun

July 17th, 2008    -    11 Comments


Have you ever noticed, I mean really noticed, that it’s all the bright side?

Instructions on burning a barn

June 5th, 2008    -    9 Comments

Haul the dog to the vet – she’s perfectly healed.
Sort the mail – a small stone glimmers from the stack.
Reluctant to cook – the lemon and basil take over.
Morning madness –the earth and sky kiss me at the door.
Can’t find your way – let the barn burn itself to dust.

***
Barn’s burnt down – now I can see the moon
– Masahide

No inside, no outside

May 21st, 2008    -    12 Comments

Another thing my dog showed me.

Just the idea of it had me pacing anxiously. But there it was in black and white:

Molly should be STRICTLY CONFINED for the next 2 months in an airline kennel, crate or equivalent.

All my doubt and consternation rammed up against this barrier. Say what? A dog? A big dog? A big running, jumping, happy-go-lucky dog? Behind bars? For how long? Say what?

Truth is, just the idea of having a dog – a healthy, ambulatory dog – had seemed confining enough to me. And now the walls were squeezed to an inconceivably narrow enclosure.

We lugged the crate into the house. It loomed over the room. Black, menacing, punitive. Her prison. Our prison.

Molly walked inside the pen. She walked inside and laid down. She laid down and relaxed. She fell asleep. She snored her doggy dreams. When she got better, we began leaving the door unlatched. She ambled in by herself, undisturbed by what you or I might judge as the cruel separation of inside and outside.

She has never been anything but completely unconfined in her confinement, because she has no idea of confinement.

Me? I have been thrashing my head against these bars all my life.

Some are a quicker study.

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