just This…

THIS Enso

is it possible for us to find happiness with just this?

with just this moment as it is?
with its frailty, its delicate and persistent heartache?
with its sadness and weight?
can i see also resilient beauty hiding in forms masked?
can i hear music that speaks of Love as no word can?
can i see life in death and wholeness in what otherwise feels broken and sick?

is it possible for me to find happiness with just this?

this is the beginning of our practice

this is our path

~j

Making Friends with Sadness…

Solidarity Saturday
Saturday, January 26th 2013

PeaceOfferingSmall

 

 

sometimes

it is all i can do
to just sit

here in this naked moment

this uneasy
space

my heart broken open

how else can all this Love pour out?

 

 

Hmmm….“Making Friends with Sadness.”

You may be asking, “Who would want to do that?!”  And this would be a good and understandable question.  Sadness, like pain and quite a few other uncomfortable aspects of this life, is a thing that we are normally trying to avoid, or escape if caught by it.

Now, to be clear, in this blog entry I am not referring to clinical depression, which is a serious condition that needs professional assistance.  I have had some depression in my own life and have had a number of close friends and family who have suffered from this illness.  Many have benefitted from both therapeutic and medicinal assistance.  And if you are suffering in a way that limits your life, affects your ability to work or function normally, or is causing harm to yourself and those close to you, then please care for yourself enough to seek help.  If you had asthma and were constricted in your ability to breathe, would you not seek help?  Why drown when all around you is shore, wanting to feel your tender feet grounded on its warm sand?  This being said, understanding sadness in the way that I am talking about with this blog entry will, I think in addition to therapy, also benefit those suffering from this illness.

There is a social aspect to this.  Society, particularly a culture built on seeking pleasure and attaining, frowns on sadness and melancholy.  As the sayings go, “Stiff upper lip”, “Pull up your bootstraps”, and “Get back up on the horse.”  Perhaps it isn’t such a bad thing to stay on the ground a bit, laying there – taking it all in, before we get back up on the horse.  Perhaps we can allow ourselves a frown now and then, perhaps we should just take off the boots and let our feet breathe.  Perhaps if we gave ourselves permission to have the experience of feeling sadness, we could do just that – feel sadness, rather than pretending it doesn’t exist or secretly identifying as sad.

If we allow sadness to rise and fall, to live and die, to arrive and pass, then it will do just that rather than burying itself deeper within as we ignore it and hush it away.  I think a lot of our non-clinical or chemically induced depression may lessen or go away if we would allow ourselves to feel sad when life presents sadness.  The Franciscan Richard Rohr quite popularly says, “What we don’t transform, we transmit.”  Allow sadness for what it is, and give yourself – your heart, the opportunity to transform.  Transformed people are awesome people, benefitting the world through their own lives.

 

The great Tibetan meditation master, Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche, talks about this practice of opening heart and staying with sadness in the following…

“When you awaken your heart…you find, to your surprise, that your heart is empty.  You find that you are looking into outer space.  What are you, who are you, where is your heart?  If you really look, you won’t find anything tangible and solid.  Of course, you might find something very solid if you have a grudge against someone or you have fallen possessively in love.  But that is not awakened heart.  If you search for awakened heart, if you put your hand through your rib cage and feel for it, there is nothing there except tenderness.  You feel sore and soft, and if you open your eyes to the rest of the world, you feel tremendous sadness.  This kind of sadness doesn’t come from being mistreated.  You don’t feel sad because someone has insulted you or because you feel impoverished.  Rather, this experience of sadness is unconditioned.  It occurs because your heart is completely exposed.  There is no skin or tissue covering it; it is pure raw meat.  Even if a tiny mosquito lands on it, you feel so touched.  Your experience is raw and tender and so personal.  It is this tender heart of a warrior that has the power to heal the world.”

~ Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche
(Shambhala: The Sacred Path of the Warrior)

Likewise, one of my favorite teachers and one of Rinpoche’s foremost students, Pema Chödrön, says it like so…

“Sometimes the completely open heart and mind of bodhichitta is called the soft spot, a place as vulnerable and tender as an open wound. It is equated, in part, with our ability to love….Sometimes this broken heart gives birth to anxiety and panic, sometimes to anger, resentment, and blame. But under the hardness of that armor there is the tenderness of genuine sadness. This is our link with all those who have ever loved. This genuine heart of sadness can teach us great compassion. It can humble us when we’re arrogant and soften us when we are unkind. It awakens us when we prefer to sleep and pierces through our indifference. This continual ache of the heart is a blessing that when accepted fully can be shared with all.”

~ Pema Chödrön
(When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times)

This is, I believe, the heart of Jesus as when he said, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings…” (Matthew 23:37)  So often we have been Jerusalem ourselves, so often we have been deaf to such wisdom, closed to such love, blind to a heart capable of holding the entire world and its pain – ours included.

We can sit and “meditate” all we want.  We can wear as many WWJD Bracelets as we can fit on our arm (for those who don’t know, WWJD is short for the phrase – What Would Jesus Do?).  But unless we are willing to open our hearts to sadness, ours and others, to face it and allow space for it, to care for it with gentleness and compassion – unless we are willing to be this brave, then we will continue to suffer.  We cannot avoid sadness, just as we cannot avoid pain.  But like pain, if we continue to work at evading sadness, because it makes us uncomfortable, then we will live a life not whole – a life incomplete.  Surely if we are to know joy and abundance fully, then we must also know sadness and loss.  Life is both.  Love holds both.

So we practice and we learn to live with sadness as we live with joy, knowing that both are a part of the whole.  Gaining insight that both serve as teachers as we continue to expand our hearts’ capacity to hold this entire world with compassion, but also the wisdom of mind to let go.  It is not that we should hold onto sadness, grasping.  We should simply allow it and then let it go on its way.  It may seem in the moment that it never will leave, but we simply breathe with it.  Breathing in, we say to ourselves “so this is sadness”.  We sense how it feels in our body, where it rests.  Is our chest heavy?  Is our throat tight?  Do we feel pressure in our eyes or queasy in our stomach?  It is important to recognize the reality of what we are feeling.  However, rather than getting caught up in these feelings, we simply label them.  “This is sadness, this is how sadness feels.”  We are that which is observing.  We are not the sadness, we are not the storyline.  We are watching it as it happens.

And something amazing happens as we make friends and peace with this sadness rather than ignoring it or fighting it…it eventually lessens and loses its overwhelming grip.  And another miraculous thing happens.  As we feel this sadness in our bodies and recognize it, we realize that this is how other people feel.  This is what other people are experiencing…loss, pain, sadness.  And this sadness that has pulled us from life has now given us a great gift – awareness.  We are now aware that we all share in this sadness and knowing how it feels – the heavy chest, the eyes ready to burst, the stomach flipped over, and the throat tight – we wish everyone to be free of such suffering, wishing no one to have to go through this.  That wish for no one to go through such suffering is, as Pema says above, bodhicitta.  And perhaps after feeling this wish to have no one suffer as we have, we begin to work to end this suffering not only for ourselves, but for others.  This is what it is to be a bodhisattva.  This is what it is to be a peacemaker. This is what it is to be a healer.  This is what it is to be truly YOU.

And this isn’t all gloomy.  Transformed people, those who have faced their sadness, often with their wisdom have a great sense of humor and the heartiest of laughs.  The Dalai Lama comes to mind along with two of my favorite comedians – George Carlin and Ellen DeGeneres.

Being you means feeling happiness at times and sadness in others.  This is the joy and fullness of our life – to be whole.  With this appreciation, with this awareness, we are capable of laughing and crying fully and completely with all who have come before and all who will come after.

One laughing, one crying.  One joy and one sadness.

Namasté

 

 

For more reading on this Solidarity Thursday topic, please check out these wonderful blogs: Ben at The Horizontalist, Esther at Church in the Canyon, and with a unique perspective, Triskaidekapod.

saying “yes”…

Solidarity Thursdays
Thursday, January 3rd 2013

saying “yes”…

YesEnso

Happy New Year friends and welcome to my first blog for 2013 and the first coordinated blog of 2013 as part of our continuing series, Solidarity Thursdays.  I continue to be grateful for the opportunity to share space with Ben, Esther, and Zachary.

This week’s blog topic, appropriately, is “New Beginnings”.  Ironically, I have had quite a bit of difficulty…beginning.

You see, I find myself – my heart and mind – still bound up in 2012, at least where it has bled into 2013.  Try as I might, sitting in meditation, chanting “let go, let go”, I have discovered that even as I sit on that cushion I am harboring anger, frustration, and sadness over recent events.  I am grieving in empathy with the families of the numerous children so tragically taken from life.  I am grieving the ever increasing reaction we have to greet such horrific violence, with preparation to impart even more violence as a means to end violence.  And in this, I am not speaking of the families who were directly affected.  I would expect and understand such a reaction from such pain and suffering.  Ironically, most victims are not calling for what is being set forth.  A peripheral audience of opportunists, along with those guided by fear seems to be framing the discussion. I am grieving that politics can seemingly – so callously – ignore violence towards women or victims of Hurricane Sandy by not renewing The Violence Against Women Act or securing funds for these destitute people still without homes, still without assistance so long after the event.  I am grieving for our over-consumption of resources resulting in an increasingly fragile environment and increasing poor.  I am grieving that there is such continued imbalance of power, not through legitimate means, but instead through manipulation and dishonesty.  I am grieving that this is so often a cause for celebration, rather than a wake up call to compassionate change.

And in this grieving and attachment, I feel disconnected.  I feel disconnected to this world, where life is seen as so fragmented – where people entertain the idea of the “other” – where violence is seen as normal and in some cases even morally right and even a “necessary evil” – where for a matter of convenience we can look the other way, even as so many unnecessarily starve to death.  I grieve that I have played a part in this just as anyone else has.  I grieve, because Life itself is grieving. I grieve, because I am, indeed, connected to this world.  I grieve, because I so love the people in this world.  I grieve, because I long for people to stop and remember their nobility, their Divine Heritage as children of God, of Life, of Love – however you want to define or frame it.  We are better than the violence, we are better than the overconsumption, we are better than the indifference, and we are better than fear.

I remember, I read quite some time ago when I began my meditation practice – specifically Metta, or loving-kindness meditation and with it a practice called Tonglen – that it isn’t unusual for a practitioner to become more aware and in touch with sadness…because even in its joy and beauty, life is always tinged with what I would call a sacred sadness.  It isn’t just in Buddhism where this is recognized, just look to the artwork of Christianity where Jesus is depicted pointing to his exposed and Sacred Heart.  Or even to the story of the crucifixion itself, where it is implied that it wasn’t just the wounds but the great burden of carrying within himself the brokenness of life that extinguished his.  Loving until the heart itself breaks.  As our heart opens to the world, we begin to see and connect to the pain of the world – pain we have participated in and pain we have been victims of.  This coming of age to pain, this befriending of sadness, is an opportunity for compassion.

So I sat on the meditation cushion this very day, my breath interrupted by the thoughts listed above.  I sat, with my heart heavy, my emotions ready and raw.  And all I could do was what my practice continues to teach, what the Buddha taught 2500 years ago, and what Jesus encouraged with every person he encountered – begin anew.  Beginning anew – coming back to my breathing, connecting my mind with my body, and in doing so reminding myself to live as a Whole being, a being of compassion, a partner to Life, a child of Love.

And I was reminded what it means to begin anew.  It is our way of saying “yes” to Life with our life.  It is our way of aligning ourselves with Life itself, of saying we are not separate, rather we are partners.  It is our way of living Love, of acting with compassion.

It is a given that we need Life…but have you ever thought that Life, in fact, needs you?  That this may bring meaning to why you are still breathing?  That this may bring inspiration and motivation to why you are still here, to say in continuance – Yes, yes, and again, yes.

YESensos

We fall, we rise.  This is the pattern.  The New Year is a wonderful way to ritualize this, but then again, so is each breath that we take.

May this New Year be blessed with many new beginnings as our hearts continue to open to Life and in service to compassion.  Here is the blessing I shared on Facebook for New Years, may it be so:

“May you know your own beauty and sacredness just as you are. May you feel understood and valued. May you continue to learn, grow and open to all of what Life offers you. May you still experience peace when troubled, healing when wounded, patience when angered, and joy after sadness. And most of all, may you know that you are loved.”

Namasté

For more reading on this Solidarity Thursday topic, please check out these wonderful blogs: Ben at The Horizontalist, Esther at Church in the Canyon, and with a unique perspective, Triskaidekapod.

support networks…

Solidarity Thursday
Thursday, November 8, 2012

Today’s Solidarity Thursday blogging topic is “support networks”…which like most things for me, I see through a particularly spiritual lens. This is not to say that this lens is sans practicality. From my perspective spirituality is best when it is practical. It is not just sitting on a cushion or attending Sunday services. Spirituality IS feeding the poor, visiting the prisoner, working for peace, opening our door to our neighbor, and greeting the person working behind the counter with a smile and an open heart. It doesn’t seem to matter much if we can answer the big questions like – Why am I here? Is there life after death? Is there a God?” – if we are unable to feed the hungry next door, or properly take care of the earth, or even find peace in this moment. Perhaps they all go hand in hand. Perhaps as we practice at being kind and compassionate, mindful and awake, patient and open, we discover who we are and why we are here. Perhaps we find God within all of it – the joy and suffering. Perhaps if we are living life so fully in this moment, in love with one another, in love with life, then it doesn’t matter much if there is life after this.

Perhaps it does.

Whatever the case, walking this journey together is a gift. No matter how much we want to believe that we are completely self-reliant, that we can conquer and attain anything we set our minds to if we work hard enough…Life, fully and honestly lived, will humble us. We will face illness and loss, we will face death. And in those moments we will realize that having loved ones, family, friends – people who support us and hold us up, who care what we do and how we do it, people who feel our pain and seek our happiness – is a great part of what defines what this life is about.

Why is The Buddha so emphatic about this? Why does he correct Ananda with such clarity? Would you argue with Ananda on this point? It seems fair to say that good friendship is a “part” of life. The Buddha in his teachings seems to be pointing toward something greater though – to wholeness, to unity. It is, after all, our perceived separation and deep desire to avoid change that causes us to suffer so greatly. If we see ourselves as separate, then we grasp – we cling – we are unable to let go.

Life is letting go…and becoming aware that the nature of life is change, that the nature of life is us. There is no separation. Life is One, expressing Itself in all the beautiful diversity that you see in you, around you. All is gift.

For some reason, though, we need to learn this or perhaps re-remember this through first experiencing separation. Life is so often paradoxical. It seems we first need to learn duality and eat from the Tree of Knowledge of good and evil, before we can see through to the deeper unifying Reality, Wholeness that contains light and shadow. It seems we must first leave the Garden before returning to Paradise. We must fall, before we can rise above. We begin life within the body of our mothers. Living as one – eating as one, breathing as one. Doctors say we continue to feel as one with our mothers even after birth. Soon after though, we begin that very difficult journey of becoming aware of being other from our mothers, becoming aware of being separate. The best of religion, the truest of spirituality points us back to our Wholeness with all of Life…not just our mothers. And what is most fascinating and inspiring, is now science is showing us how this is true biologically, chemically, and atomically. All is gift.

It is like the Zen proverb says – first we notice the mirror clouded as it is, then we wipe the mirror and wipe the mirror, only to one day realize that there was never a mirror at all.

How do we learn this? Where do we learn life?

In our relationships. In community. In Sangha. Sangha is the Buddhist term for spiritual community. Isn’t all of this spiritual community? Aren’t we all one Body of Christ? Aren’t we all one expression of Life? I challenge you to find this out for yourself. In this One Body, this One Community, this One Life – we learn patience, we learn humility, we learn grace. In this Sangha, we are broken and our hearts are grown wide and spacious in their capacity to hold and let go in love. In this Body, we are wounded and healed, we die and are reborn. In this Life we don’t become Whole, we become aware that we are already Whole. All is gift.

Is there a better “support network” than that?

For more reading on this Solidarity Thursday topic, please check out these wonderful blogs: The Horizontalist and Church in the Canyon. And this week, joining us for the first time with a truly unique take on all things Solidarity Thursday is Triskaidekapod. Welcome!

it’s time we grow up…

i don’t normally write about politics, but as it relates to spirituality and as that relates to issues of peace and social justice, which i am passionate about, i feel it is appropriate to express that realtionship here.

please read if you wish…

a beautiful sentiment…and we all know how i love beautiful sentiment. unfortunately cheapened and loses credibility knowing that the Romney/Ryan ticket would pursue a constitutional amendment to ban a group of tax paying citizens the same privilege granted other tax paying citizens to marry and fully express that love of which she speaks ~ “I want to talk to you tonight about that one great thing that unites us, that one thing that brings us our greatest joy when times are good, and the deepest solace in our dark hours. Tonight I want to talk to you about love.” ~ Anne Romney

i have plenty of friends who are Conservative and plenty of friends who are Christian. all beautiful people. and many of them are an exception to what i’m about to say and i’m so thankful for their loving presence in this world. sometimes, though, it feels as though the Republican Party has hijacked Christianity and Christianity has hijacked Jesus.

my two cents. ignore the titles and labels and look to the fruit of philosophy, the action to the words. Love does not separate and Love does not create classes of people with different privileges or rights associated to them. Love is not so fragile and fearful that it has to cling to tribalism, or an “us and them” delusion. that’s dualism. dualism is fine for elementary school religion and spiritual infancy. but there is a Love that holds all of this world in its wounded glory and it is always available to those who seek it, to those who have eyes to see and ears to hear.

it’s time we grow up.

namaste

~ j

August 28, 2012

broken gift…

searching
searching

we all search

for Love

Wake Up!

Love is
the broken gift
in the corner

waiting

for you

to

make it Whole

by jaysen matthew waller
©2012, Jaysen Matthew Waller