Author Archives: fleda

Mid-summer Meditation

Dear sangha,
I’ll be out of town for the rest of the summer, so these posts may not be weekly. I’ll try to get something to keep you going, most weeks, although since I left my book for others to use at UU, I won’t be able to refer directly to what we’re reading.

But I was there yesterday. Pema talked about Chogyam Trungpa’s “aids” to working with passion, aggression, and ignorance (the three poisons) in sitting practice, particularly. When passion or aggression have us in their grip, we can try noting particularly our breathing out, its spaciousness, its airy quality. We can place our attention on Big Mind, the larger “world.” If ignorance (often shows up as sleepiness) is our particular issue, we can focus on the senses, we can straighten our back, we can meditate standing up.

downloadMy first teacher, Shinzen Young, told a story of working with a meditator who could NOT stay awake. He enlisted Shinzen to sit with him over a long day or two and nudge him in some way, verbal or otherwise, each time he started to fall asleep. He broke through the tendency to sleep. And he said that his awareness took a quantum leap after that. We might not be able to do that, but we can note each time we start to get dozy. We can be aware of the sleepiness and be aware of having fallen asleep.

Ever since I had cancer, I need afternoon naps. I have found it very interesting to pay close attention to the falling asleep, to the softening of awareness. I can almost pinpoint the second I’m gone. So I guess we could do this practice in reverse this way. Note what it’s like to fall asleep.

imagesJoy will be leading next week. I want to say again how important it seems to be to stick with sangha. This practice is so unlike the “normal” way of seeing the world, it only takes a few weeks of being away from like-minded friends for our ego to tell us we sure don’t need THIS silliness. Or for our ego to tell us something else is more important. Is it?

Love,
Fleda

Sitting in the Summer

Dear Sangha,
images-1It’s particularly difficult sometimes to get to the cushion in the beautiful and too-short summer. Which is why we need to encourage each other, sit with each other, be in sangha together. That said, I’ll be away a good part of the rest of the summer. But our sangha will continue, of course! We’ll have Kozan McLean, Joy Zimke, and Nora Wiser taking turns leading. We’ll continue to read Pema Chodron’s The Wisdom of No Escape. I’m checking out some books for a followup to that one.

In the meantime, here is a thought from Pema:
imagesWe can stop struggling with what occurs and see its true face without calling it the enemy. It helps to remember that our spiritual practice is not about accomplishing anything—not about winning or losing—but about ceasing to struggle and relaxing as it is. That is what we are doing when we sit down to meditate. That attitude spreads into the rest of our lives.

Join us on Sunday nights. Being there together is a great aid to our practice.
Love,
Fleda

 

 

We Already Have Everything

Dear sangha,
This is from Pema Chodron, whose book we’re reading now in our Sunday night book study. This is not from that book, but from a cute little “Pocket Pema Chodron” that somebody gave me.

downloadWe already have everything we need. There is no need for self-improvement. All these trips we lay on ourselves—the heavy duty fearing that we’re bad and hoping that we’re good, the identities that we so dearly cling to, the rage, the jealousy and the addictions of all kinds—never touch our basic wealth. They are like clouds that temporarily block the sun. But all the time our warmth and brilliance are right here. This is who we really are. We are one blink of an eye away from being fully awake. 

download-1Looking at ourselves this way is very different from our usual habit . From this perspective we don’t need to change: you can feel as wretched as you like, and you’re still a good candidate for enlightenment. You can feel like the world’s most hopeless basket case, but that feeling is your wealth, not something to be thrown out or improved upon.

Next week we’ll be back to our regular sitting and discussion. Join us if you can. No need to bring a book–someone always has one to share.
Love,
Fleda

The Truth of Suffering

Dear Sangha,
imagesWe were a little squeezed into a back classroom yesterday, because there was an event in the UU sanctuary. Actually, it’s kind of nice to have that intimate sitting occasionally. We began the chapter, “Weather and the Four Noble Truths,” with the section on suffering. Pema mentions that the Buddha didn’t begin by talking about basic goodness, clarity, space, bliss, or openness–he began by talking about suffering. We suffer because of conditions; we suffer because we want things to be different than they are; we suffer because we know we’re going to die–all sorts of reasons. Suffer seems like a strong word for some of our dissatisfactions, but looked at closely enough, we see we are actually in quite a lot of pain because of them.

download-1Pema asks why we resist our own energy, why we resist the way things seem to want to go, why we resist the directions WE seem to be going. She then moves to discussion of the second noble truth, which is that our resistance comes from what she calls our “fundamental operating mechanism,” the ego. This small paragraph could easily be a whole book (and there are plenty of them), looking at the development of the ego–the concept that we are somehow solid–and how the ego needs to shore itself up by resistance.

downloadShe says, “Interestingly enough, when the weather changes and the energy simply flows through us, just as it flows through the grass and the trees and the ravels and the bears and the moose and the ocean and the rocks, we discover that we are not solid at all.”

A lot to take in, there. A lot to talk about next time–but next time is our four-hour block sitting, from 2:30-6:30. Please join us for any part of that time you can.
Love,
Fleda

Red Hats and Blue Hats

Dear Sangha,

download The reading yesterday began with a story of a god who painted half his hat red and half blue. He paraded down the field. “We saw God!” the people on each side said. One side said he was red, the other said he was blue. There was escalation, building of walls, etc. Then he walked in the other direction. “Ah, you were right,” each side said. Then he stood in the middle and turned around. Everyone laughed.

download-1Which has to do with judgment, and insufficient evidence, which is always the case. We can’t know everything. So, Pema says, “See what is. Acknowledge it without calling it right or wrong. See it clearly without judgment. Come back to the present moment.”

But then there is the issue of real wrongs that cry out to be righted, real suffering. We talked about that a long while, how we can act without clinging, and take care of what needs to be taken care of while maintaining a sense of space around our thoughts and our actions. Not easy to talk about, since we’re attempting to talk about both relative and absolute truth at the same time. Only a few skilled teachers can do this very well.

Join us next week. We’re launching into the chapter, “Weather and the Four Noble Truths.”
Love,
Fleda

When you meet the Buddha, kill the Buddha

Dear Sangha,
We had a great discussion on Sunday, maybe 12 people there. We began the chapter, “No Such Thing as a True Story,” which is of course about not clinging to anything, not our religious icons, or our religious stories. Not even Buddhism.

download-1Of course we saw the application of this teaching to current politics. We talked about how limited our vision is, how much humans can’t see because we don’t have the equipment to hear the range of sounds a dog can, for instance, how we can’t see the fourth dimension, or neutrinos, and so on. We think we know things but we know only our small scope.

Pema puts it this way:  In Taoism there’s a famous saying that goes, “The Tao that can be spoken is not the ultimate Tao.'”Another way you could say that, although I’ve never heard it translated this way, is,  “As soon as you begin to believe in something, then you can no longer see anything else.'”The truth you believe in and cling to makes you unavailable to hear anything new.

downloadHolding on to beliefs limits our experience of life, says Pema. If we look closely we can see how this is true. What’s happening is immediate, and without labels. Then we start in on that, adding what we know from that past, what we anticipate, what we think it is. Not bad, of course, but if we don’t see what we’re doing, we miss the aliveness of the moment.

See you next week,
Love,
Fleda

 

Heightened Neurosis

Dear Sangha,
Last week was the four-hour, so instead of saying something about the week’s reading, here is a short piece from Pema Chodron I thought you might find interesting:

download“We might assume that as we train in bodhichitta, our habitual patterns will start to unwind–that day by day, month by month, we’ll be more open-minded, more flexible, more of a warrior. But what actually happens with ongoing practice is that our patterns intensify. In Vadjrayana Buddhism, this is called “heightened neurosis.” It is not something we do on purpose. It just happens. We catch the scent of groundlessness, and despite our wishes to remain steady, open, and flexible, we hold on tight in very habitual ways.

download-1This has been the experience of everyone who ever set out on the path of awakening. All those smiling enlightened people you see in pictures or in person had to go through the process of encountering their full-blown neurosis, their methods of looking for ground. When we start to interrupt our ordinary ways of calling ourselves names and patting ourselves on the back, we are doing something extremely brave. Slowly we edge toward the open state, but let’s face it, we are moving toward a place of no handholds, no footholds, no mindholds.”

Next Sunday we’ll be back to our regular sitting. Join us if you can. It’s a chance to sit with supporting people sitting around us, and a chance to talk about our practice with others who are also finding their way.

Love,
Fleda

A Bigger Perspective

Dear Sangha,
Yesterday we read together about half of Pema’s chapter, “Taking a Bigger Perspective.’ We talked about the wider vision possible when the walls of our ego are seen through. We tried to decide what Pema meant when she said we are “always standing in the middle of a sacred circle.” We looked up “sacred.”

imagesPema says, “This room is not the sacred circle.  .  . Wherever you go for the rest of your life, you’re always in the middle of the universe and the circle is always around  you. Everyone who walks up to you has entered that sacred space, and it’s not an accident. Whatever comes into the space is there to teach you.”

That simple paragraph actually has a lot to consider. In what way are we always in the center? In what way is that space sacred? We talked about the idea of a solid self, and how when that begins to be seen through, and we begin to see the world around us as our own projection, then we see that we actually create that world. Hence, we’re in the middle of it. This is a lot to take in unless we’ve put in our time on the cushion. Even then, some teachings we just have to hear and trust that images-1eventually, understanding will come.

Janet will be leading next week. Many thanks!

Also, there is a sangha member who lives near the corner of Cass and Airport Road who is going to need a ride if he is able to continue to come. He uses a wheelchair. If you are able to help out with this, let me know.
Love,
Fleda

Joy!

Dear Sangha,
imgresWe had a lovely time yesterday talking about the chapter in Pema Chodron’s book (The Wisdom of No Escape) titled “Joy.” Well, actually, several of us noted that when the buds are bursting out, the sun is shining, sometimes, as the poet T.S. Eliot wrote, “April is the cruelest month.” We feel down. And it’s painful to feel down when all seems joyful. The contrast is hard to take.

Pema says “The greatest obstacle to connecting with our joy is resentment.”
We resent the fact that we’re not as smart, rich, healthy, secure, whatever, as our neighbor. Or as we think we should be. It does no good to tell ourselves how wonderful the world is, how much we DO have.

imgresSo the practice is to sit, to watch how we label our feelings, to see if we can feel the texture below the label, to watch how that feeling and texture changes. Up and down, back and forth, things are always changing. As we look, often we begin to see gaps, open spaces between our thoughts, our preconceptions. This is the beginning of wisdom, of seeing.

One of Trungpa Rinpoche’s favorite sayings, as Pema remembers, is “You can do it.” The work requires dedication, but we can do it.

Love,
Fleda