I led a one day retreat in Cincinnati yesterday, and I was struck by the power of the distracted mind; watching others and watching myself. This led to a contemplation today on how easily we slide into distractions which pull us away from the present moment and dump us into the “ongoing drone of thought fragments and opinions.”
The group all remembered that we shouldn’t be eager to condemn our inevitable slide into the distracted mind, but rather, when we come back to our bodies and the present, we can rather congratulate ourselves for our lovely moment of awareness!
We talked about our search for forgiveness and our need to “fix” ourselves and assumption that there’s something about us that always needs fixing. I am taking some ideas from Mary Ellen’s Landolina’s wonderful talk at the Wednesday sitting group. I also quoted from a newsletter I received on a new book by Anne Lamott: Here’s the newsletter that I quoted from:
We had a smaller group today, but it was very cozy. I read a piece on suffering: this time some wise words from the writer Ursula La Guin, who speaks about the universal experience of suffering and it’s place in our lives:
The conversation then morphed into a talk about our views on retirement, being productive, and being shaped by our expectations of ourselves and society. It was all quite interesting.
We talked a bit today about anxiety, our own personal sources of angst and our conditioned responses to them. I shifted from eastern writings to the wisdom of the ancient Greeks: here is a lovely article from “Brain Pickings” (I highly recommend the site for bibliophiles!)
We’re moving south this week from the shores of Lake Superior to Covington Kentucky, so I’ll give you a view of the Ohio River next Sunday!
This being Thanksgiving week, and the beginning of the holiday season, we may find it difficult to maintain a consistent formal meditation practice. I thought it might be a good time to talk about the small moments we can anchor ourselves in the present moment, take a look at what we’re doing, and look at our “intentionality.” These are moments when we are not only mindful, but we recognize our ability to make a choice. Those moments where we act out of wisdom are like planting “karmic” seeds which can grow and generate more wisdom and less suffering. Moments where we are acting out of habit or mindlessness have the potential to lead to more suffering.
Gil Fronsdal has a great article on this: Karma and Intention: Link
We talked about the possibility of doing nothing; of resting in a place of quiet, with no “should” and “shouldn’t.” Sometimes we forget that the essence of meditation is to (eventually) get to a place where we are at ease.
Everyone shared some very tender and sensitive places where we don’t often go, and I and I believe everyone appreciated that. We talked about what a strong inclination we all have to being distracted by our cell phones and other devices, and how driven we are to feel we need to “get things done”, unless illness or pain force us into stopping. I suggested this article.
Warning: this article is written (and titled) in such a way as to assure you if you do this you will still be “productive.” The authors are still deeply fixated on our powerful belief that only if you are “doing” something, is it viable.
I wanted to offer the group some Dharma-type support for how to survive the upcoming elections. I found an article that I forgot to include in our class last week on Empathetic Joy, and thought it would be good to refer to it. Using the delightful film, “Groundhog Day” it illustrates the potential for finding happiness by appreciating the goodness in others:
I also gave the group a list some of the things I go to as a relief for anxiety; they offered some ideas of their own (which included appreciating the good circumstances in their lives, remembering impermanence, happiness that people are actually out voting, and the joy of a real groundhog)!
We had a rather “interesting” talk today, in the wake of all the sadness and agonies going on in the world right now. I thought it might be useful and maybe could give us some ease by noting or looking at the quality of equanimity. It’s not easy to do, because it might seem that equanimity is saying that everything is great the way it is. But it’s not about being blind to the suffering of the world at all, it’s recognizing that we can’t change the way things are at this moment and sitting with the suffering with compassion, love, and a sense of calm.
There’s a lot more to it than that, of course. Here’s the link to the article in Tricycle magazine. It’s a really helpful article, so if you don’t have a subscription, send me an email!
Well, it looks like this week I re-used an article from Tricycle which I mentioned in another post. However, this is because I focused on a different aspect of the article, so that’s my excuse! Better excuse: I forgot!
I wanted to use it because I loved this paragraph:
“Meditation interrupts the endless feedback loops between consciousness and language, between consciousness and being, not disrupting them as one might with a drug or madness, but opening a space, a pause, a higher order function of attentive compassion. In practice, one learns to accept finitude, mortality, and the great ending, and in practice, one learns to cultivate the patience, compassion, and peace that lead to freedom.”
We had a talk that we agreed was much too extensive and deep to do in 15 minutes! Here’s the Rumi poem I promised:
This is a verse from the poem:
“Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field. I’ll meet you there. When the soul lies down in that grass, the world is too full to talk about. Ideas, language, even the phrase “each other” doesn’t make any sense. The breeze at dawn has secrets to tell you. Don’t go back to sleep. You must ask for what you really want. Don’t go back to sleep. People are going back and forth across the doorsill where the two worlds touch. The door is round and open. Don’t go back to sleep.”
Today was sort of introspective for me, and I brought some of that to the class. It’s been a hard week for a lot of us, maybe for the same or different reasons. I wanted to talk about how we are encouraged by the Buddha to “take our seat” and accept the present moment. This doesn’t mean we go along with what we may see as moral bankruptcy in our government, or don’t recognize our world’s ecological problems. It means allowing ourselves to be fearless in the face of our suffering, and to remember that we share this suffering with all other beings. Can we sit and accept the suffering without being drowned by it?