Tag Archive | making a change

Acceptance

Jizo 2“I want to be more patient, more mindful, less angry, less sad. I’ve been a Buddhist for years but I’ve always struggled to maintain a regular practice, to commit to a Sangha. I want to change, to be a better version of myself. I think this will help.”

Something like these words spilled out of me a few years back when I was on the phone rapidly talking to the senior teacher of the Still Water Mindfulness Practice Center, trying to explain why I wanted to take the Five Mindfulness Trainings at the upcoming transmission ceremony. He listened quietly before gently asking me to consider that while taking the trainings would no doubt be of benefit to me, was it possible that I was fine just as I was, that I could even accept myself the way I was? I revolted internally against the idea. I didn’t like myself the way I was. I hated my anger, my fear, my anxiety, my depression. I saw them as shrouds suffocating the qualities I did value – patience, joy, compassion, attentiveness. I wanted to push the negatives away, reject them, punish them even. I desperately wanted to be different than I was.

In the book Being Peace, Thay writes:

If I have a feeling of anger, how would I meditate on that? How would I deal with it, as a Buddhist, or as an intelligent person? I would not look upon anger as something foreign to me that I have to fight, to have surgery in order to remove it. I know that anger is me, and I am anger. Nonduality, not two. I have to deal with my anger with care, with love, with tenderness, with nonviolence. Because anger is me, I have to tend my anger as I would tend a younger brother or sister, with love, with care, because I myself am anger. I am in it, I am it. In Buddhism we do not consider anger, hatred, greed as enemies we have to fight, to destroy, to annihilate. If we annihilate anger, we annihilate ourselves. Dealing with anger in that way would be like transforming yourself into a battlefield, tearing yourself into parts, one part taking the side of Buddha, and one part taking the side of Mara. If you struggle in that way, you do violence to yourself. If you cannot be compassionate to yourself, you will not be able to be compassionate to others. When we get angry, we have to produce awareness: “I am angry. Anger is in me. I am anger.” That is the first thing to do.

Thay frequently speaks about how each of us contains seeds of everything in ourselves – it’s the seeds we water that grow and flower. If we dwell on fear and anger, we water those seeds, strengthening those unhelpful emotions. However, if we try to repress them, we commit violence against ourselves. We must instead acknowledge them, bringing up the loving energy of mindfulness to care for them. We must accept that they are there and that we are them. Continue reading

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Happiness

Jizo 4Choosing to be happy is hard stuff. The first time I read the lines from Pema Chödrön’s book Living Beautifully: with Uncertainty and Change that I quoted in my last post, the ones about how we have a choice between fighting everything that happens to us (and thus suffering all the time) or relaxing into the moment (and thus finding freedom), I grabbed a pen and wrote in the margin of the book: this is my fundamental problem – I actually seriously can’t decide sometimes which of these 2 options I want . . .

It’s scary how much of a hindrance I can be to my own happiness. It’s hard to admit that sometimes I can’t even decide whether I want to try something new in the hopes that it makes me feel better or just keep repeating the same old behaviors that have only brought me suffering every time I’ve relied on them in the past. When Thầy talks about the power of habit energy, the image that comes to my mind is deep ruts in the ground that my wagon wheels just naturally get stuck in. The ruts are familiar after all, even if they are confining and not particularly comfortable, and part of me gets frightened at the thought of leaving their security. Sometimes I’d actually rather complain about my own misery than risk making a change. At least I know what the misery feels like. Change feels risky.

I once read an article written by a pacifist who was tired of people saying that nonviolence could never work. The pacifist’s response was that we won’t know nonviolence won’t work until we’ve tried it for as long as we’ve tried violence. After all, we’ve been using violence for thousands of years and it hasn’t brought permanent solutions – so why do we keep giving it another chance? Habit energy. Continue reading