Wednesday, June 4, 2008

I guess you could call me a buddhist

One of the most powerful teachings of the Buddhist tradition is that as long as you are wishing for things to change, they never will. As long as you're wanting yourself to get better, you won't. As long as you have an orientation toward the future, you can never just relax into what you already have or already are.

One of the deepest habitual patterns that we have is to feel that now is not good enough. We think back to the past a lot, which maybe was better than now, or perhaps worse. We also think ahead quite a bit to the future - which we may fear - always holding out hope that it might be a little bit better than now. Even if now is going really well - we have good health and we've met the person of our dreams, or we just had a child or got the job we wanted - nevertheless there's a deep tendency always to think about how it's going to be later. We don't quite give ourselves full credit for who we are in the present.
In one of the first teachings I ever heard, the teacher said, "I don't know why you came here, but I want to tell you right now that the basis of this whole teaching is that you're never going to get everything together." I felt a little like he had just slapped me in the face or thrown cold water over my head. But I've always remembered it. He said, "You're never going to get it all together." There isn't going to be some precious future time when all the loose ends will be tied up. Even though it was shocking to me, it rang true. One of the things that keeps us unhappy is this continual searching for pleasure or security, searching for a little more comfortable situation, either at the domestic level or at the spiritual level or at the level of mental peace.

Nowadays, people go to a lot of different places trying to find what they're looking for. There are 12-step programs; someone told me that there is now a 24-step program; someday there will probably be a 108-step program. There are a lot of support groups and different therapies. Many people feel wounded and are looking for something to heal them. To me it seems that at the root of healing, at the root of feeling like a fully adult person, is the premise that you're not going to try to make anything go away, that what you have is worth appreciating. But this is hard to swallow if what you have is pain.

In Boston there's a stress-reduction clinic run on Buddhist principles. It was started by Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn, a Buddhist practitioner and author of Full Catastrophe Living. He says that the basic premise of his clinic - to which many people come with a lot of pain - is to give up any hope of fruition. Otherwise the treatment won't work. If there's some sense of wanting to change yourself, then it comes from a place of feeling that you're not good enough. It comes from aggression toward yourself, dislike of your present mind, speech, or body; there's something about yourself that you feel is not good enough. People come to the clinic with addictions, abuse issues, or stress from work-with all kinds of issues. Yet this simple ingredient of giving up hope is the most important ingredient for developing sanity and healing.

That's the main thing. As long as you're wanting to be thinner, smarter, more enlightened, less uptight, or whatever it might be, somehow you're always going to be approaching your problem with the very same logic that created it to begin with: you're not good enough. That's why the habitual pattern never unwinds itself when you're trying to improve, because you go about it in exactly the same habitual style that caused all the pain to start.

There's a life-affirming teaching in Buddhism, which is that Buddha, which means "awake," is not someone you worship. Buddha is not someone you aspire to; Buddha is not somebody that was born more than two thousand years ago and was smarter than you'll ever be. Buddha is our inherent nature - our Buddha nature - and what that means is that if you're going to grow up fully, the way that it happens is that you begin to connect with the intelligence that you already have. It's not like some intelligence that's going to be transplanted into you. If you're going to be fully mature, you will no longer be imprisoned in the childhood feeling that you always need to protect yourself or shield yourself because things are too harsh. If you're going to be a grown-up - which I would define as being completely at home in your world no matter how difficult the situation - it's because you will allow something that's already in you to be nurtured. You allow it to grow, you allow it to come out, instead of all the time shielding it and protecting it and keeping it buried.
In other words, anything that you can experience or think is worthy of compassion; anything you could think or feel is worthy of appreciation.

This teaching was powerful for me; it stuck. I would find myself in various states of mind and various moods, going up and down, going left and right, falling on my face and sitting up - just in all these different life situations - and I would remember, "Buddha falling flat on her face; Buddha feeling on top of the world; Buddha longing for yesterday." I began to learn that I couldn't get away from Buddha no matter how hard I tried. I could stick with myself through thick and thin. If one would enter into an unconditional relationship with oneself, one would be entering into an unconditional relationship with Buddha.

This is why the slogan says, "Abandon any hope of fruition." "Fruition" implies that at a future time you will feel good. There is another word, which is open - to have an open heart and open mind. This is oriented very much to the present. If you enter into an unconditional relationship with yourself, that means sticking with the Buddha right now on the spot as you find yourself.

Right now today, could you make an unconditional relationship with yourself? Just at the height you are, the weight you are, the amount of intelligence that you have, the burden of pain that you have? Could you enter into an unconditional relationship with that?

Thanks to : "From Start Where You Are : A Guide to Compassionate Living" by Pema Chodron, Copyright 1994, Shambhala Publications.


Tozansha said...

This is a hard lesson D. All very simple in understanding but so hard to be.

Thanks! I think I'm going to reready this one a couple of times.

Eddie the Girl said...

too much. i can't comment.

Anonymous said...


inderdaad een wijze raad...
En ik moet zeggen, ik heb er ook al veel bij stilgestaan. Ik ben iemand die heel vaak kijkt naar de toekomst. Ik heb altijd iets nodig om naar uit te kijken, om mee bezig te zijn. En eigenlijk geniet ik inderdaad weinig van de momenten zelf. Als het maandag is, kijk ik al uit naar vrijdag omdat het dan weekend is.

As long as you're wanting to be thinner, smarter, more enlightened, less uptight, or whatever it might be, somehow you're always going to be approaching your problem with the very same logic that created it to begin with: you're not good enough...
Deze gedachte kan ik wel volgen, maar langs de andere kant vind ik wel dat je bepaalde verwachtingen mag koesteren in het leven...het ding is, ge moet er dan ook zelf iets willen aan doen. Het alleen hopen of willen is vaak nie genoeg.
Je moet er tijd, energie en moed voor hebben om er dan ook echt voor te gaan. En ik denk, als je het echt graag wilt, dan doe je er wel iets voor.

One of the things that keeps us unhappy is this continual searching for pleasure or security.
Dit snap ik ook wel. Vaak zijn mensen zo bezig met het ideale te zoeken dat ze vergeten dat ze mss het ideale gewoon al hebben. Maar vaak beseft men dit nie of zijn we gewoon nie tevreden met wat we hebben.

mja, tis een intressant onderwerp om over na te denken...
I'll keep this in mind!

Anonymous said...

I have been recommending a book called "My Stroke of Insight - a Brain Scientist's Personal Journey" by Jill Bolte Taylor and also a TEDTalk Dr. Taylor gave on the TED dot com site. And you don't have to take my word for it - Dr. Taylor was named Time Magazine 100 Most Influential People, the New York Times wrote about her and her book is a NYTimes Bestseller), and Oprah did not 4 interviews with her.