(I’ve been in a silent retreat and had no idea as to what events have taken place in Tibet this week. I just found out and have yet to research it, but you can click on the picture above to learn more and help support the Dalai Lama in standing up for Tibet – a country and people who have my heart. For those interested, here’s another list of ways to help and protect the Tibetans in Lhasa. The following post was written in retreat and has no relation to the current events.)
“Well. You know what Buddhists would say? You must have some karmic connection that keeps bringing you back…” – the woman checking me into the Roots Institute of Wisdom Buddhist Retreat Center, Bodhgaya (Bihar), India
And even I have to admit that finding myself again in a Buddhist learning and meditation center for the 7th time in 7 years, does cross the line of coincidence. Even if I tried to deny it, my “connection” still manages to leak out in a “glow” that others have told they observe of me (when I’m in retreat), and the unexplainable tears in which my eyes well each time I encounter another special lama, geshe or monk who steals my heart with his laugh and mirror of love.
Buddhism certainly is, as I was taught, a graduated path. Like my height inching up the notches on the wall in grade school, it is hard to recognize how much I’ve grown since my first class. Today, I sit in meditation and wonder, “Wait? When did it stop being painful to sit? When did I stop stealing restless sneak peeks at my watch? When did my legs stop falling asleep? When did I stop “treating” myself to daydreams and fantasies? When did I stop hurling mental obscenities at the person whose voice is leading the analytical meditation? And since when am I able to sit for forty minutes without moving, on mental task, and at peace?”
I remember sharing a meditation hall with people like me and hating them, “You think you’re enlightened, don’t you? Well. I hate you and your perfect posture. And I might spend my next meditation fantasizing about hitting you with my meditation cushion.” (Okay. I know that’s a harsh and embarrassing line of thought. But try “meditating” for 11 hours a day, and see what pops into your head on the 6th day.)
In any case, if I hadn’t already given it away, not whisky or affairs or high-speed sports, but ANGER is my poison. Don’t worry. No one that “knows me”, would know it. (Well, maybe a special few.) Because as an expert suppressor of unkind emotions, I usually just bottle my poison and then grind my teeth through the night, bite at my cuticles, and connive especially smart ways to “bite” in sneaky emails. Are you getting afraid? So am I.
And as my last teacher correctly told me in response to my question, “Ah yes dear. So you’re beginning to worry that you’re a terrible human being who acts only under the influence of her afflictions and delusions? Then the dharma (teachings of Buddha) is finally sinking into you! (And the denial out.) They say it takes at least three teachings before you hear it for the first time. So welcome! And don’t worry. We can’t begin to fix our flaws unless we recognize them. The only teacher more powerful than Buddha himself, is your suffering and struggle.”
That’s some sneaky reassurance.
Anyway, a “simultaneously-up-and-down” graduated path, I’d like to correct it for the record. For it seems that for every additional minute I am able to sit in mindful concentration and awareness, I am rewarded with the realization of the plummeting immaturity and reckless state of my mind. Meditation IS exhausting.
I am sleeping two hours less each night. I wake up remembering each of my dreams in vivid detail. My breath is deepening. My awareness heightening. My appreciation strengthening. So meditation is also walking-down-the-UP-escalator and, to the observer, walking-in-place. If you wanted circles and conundrums, look no farther than Buddhism. Have you ever noticed the soft and sneaky smirk on Buddha’s lips? If I might borrow the quote of a dear friend and apply it the prophet: “He’s not laughing at you. You’re just not laughing with him.”
Anyway. I escaped the retreat center for only a minute in the name of business. So I have to get back to it. If my chatty mood (I’ve been in silence for six days) confused the message, do let it be clear that I love Buddha. His teachings, of all the religions I’ve studied, have had the most profound impact on my relationship to the world and the human beings that inhabit it. If you’re feeling curious, duped by, or clueless to, the world as you know it, and have a sneaking suspicion of a much bigger mystery that’s tooling you around like a kitten a yarn ball, then I can’t more highly recommend a course in Buddhism as the most pragmatic and experiential path to self-discovery that I’ve yet encountered.
And as I’ve been musing through the day, I don’t think I’ve ever met a Buddhist I didn’t highly respect and love. You special Buddhists in my life that are reading this: that means you. Yes. YOU.
If you’d like some material, this is what I’ve been read- (and re-reading) this week from two of my favorite human beings, both of whom I’ve had the great karma to bow my thanks to in person:
ANGER: Wisdom for Cooling the Flames – Thick Nhat Hanh
Healing Anger: The Power of Patience from a Buddhist Perspective by H. H. The Dalai Lama
Old Path White Clouds – Walking in the Footsteps of Buddha – Thick Nhat Hanh
The Art of Happiness – by H.H. The Dalai Lama
The Stone Boy – Thich Nhat Hanh
Back to my (business, and) retreating.