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

No Escape

Dear Sangha,
imgres“For a fully enlightened being, the difference between what is neurosis and what is wisdom is very hard to perceive, because somehow the energy underlying both of them is the same. The basic creative energy of life. . .can be experienced as open, free, unburdened, full of possibility, energizing. Or this very same energy can be experienced as petty, narrow, stuck, caught.”

imgres-1This is Pema, talking about two sides, as she puts it, of the same coin. They are, together, the human condition. We don’t get to get out of it. Meditation helps us to get to know that basic energy “really well,” she says. We’re all different and our energies are different. We learn gradually what directions are good for us and what aren’t. We learn, as she says, what’s poison for us and what’s medicine. Basically, the practice comes down to learning to trust ourselves

But in order to do that, we have to see clearly. We have to see through our confusions so that our actions are authentic. We need to sit a lot!

We had a great discussion last night about ritual, the nature of religions, and basic sanity. Join us next week if you can.

Love,
Fleda

Important Notice!

Dear Sangha,
imgresIt won’t be possible for us to have a four-hour sitting this Sunday. There’s no one to lead it. HOWEVER, I can be back to lead the regular 5-7 sitting and book discussion. SO, we will meet this Sunday from 5-7.
Love,
Fleda