Dukkhaboy

Have felt worse


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Waking Up

Ven Amy Miller

I heard the Venerable Amy Miller teach this week. She was talking about “Transforming Negative Emotions: Coping with Anxiety and Depression.” I really liked what she had to say about starting your day positively and thought it would be useful to anyone whether they were facing anxiety and/or depression or not.

She suggested four ways to set your mind off well early in the morning. Firstly, think about and be grateful for your life. Look at all the good things that are in it: you have a house, a comfortable bed, when you turn the tap water comes out and it is clean water free of diseases, there is food you can buy and you don’t have to dodge bombs and bullets on the day to the shop or market. Additionally, you have friends who support you, you live in an area with available health care. All these things (and you can probably think of many more) mean you have a fortunate life.

Then look at yourself. Think about your good qualities and abilities. Personally as I am British my culturally engrained modesty kicks in here, but she makes a good point. We all have things we contribute and do that make the world better for others. Maybe it is the skills you bring to your job that help others have an easier and more happy daily life or the care you give members of your family; young or old. These first two points are similar to a line of thinking and meditation in Buddhism called your “precious human rebirth”. Being grateful for all this, or even at first just aware of it, helps make the most of what we have and be happier in our own life and environment.

Thirdly she suggested we consider that we might die today. Now I am sure the first two suggestions make clear logical sense to all, whereas this one may seem at best odd and maybe even nuts to anyone not familiar with Buddhist philosophy. In the West and certainly here in the UK talk of and thoughts about death are avoided, shunned and left ignored. But if you can consider the fragility of your life in the first minutes of the day it lets you see how precious and wonderful it can be. By considering that this could be your final few hours on the planet you can make your day more purposeful and joyful. You can choose to live it with more awareness for how special and  invaluable it is. If you do this then you’ll not only be happier yourself but you will spread some of that joy around the people you connect with. Looking at the impermanence of our lives helps us live them more positively.

Finally she talked about setting a motivation of benefiting all people you meet during the day. This aim gives your time purpose and meaning and helps make yourself and others be happier. And if we were all able to that every day ….

If any of this strikes a chord with you Venerable Amy’s website with more talks, ideas for meditations (and without my misinterpretations) is here http://amymiller.com 


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The humility of learning

For the first time ever, HH the 17th Karmapa has visited the UK. He spoke in Battersea, London. And fantastically I managed to buy a weekend ticket to hear him teach. If you are kind enough to read this and if you take anything positive away from doing so you can be assured it didn’t come from me but from HH Karmapa and somehow survived my foggy, unqualified retelling of it.  I only want to write about one part of what he said here. He said much more than just this on the day.

There was one verse His Holiness explained that immediately struck me. He was talking about respecting other people. Instead of just a normal moral school assembly style ‘treat others as you would like to be treated – golden rule’ type thing, he explained why if it is done properly seeing others in this way, cherishing them even, benefits for us as well. The particular verse he was teaching is

“Wherever I am, whomever I’m with,

May I regard myself as lower than all others,

And, from the depths of my heart,

May I hold them as supreme and cherish them.”

Instead of merely going with a bland idea of respecting all beings or people, we can additionally try to be humble. If we have no humility then our inflated sense of self can get stuck on how great we are and how we are better than everyone else. HH Karmapa likened it to pouring water on a ball. No matter how much water you pour the ball is going to capture none of the liquid. Similarly, if we approach people whilst full of pride and see ourselves as better than them, then we cut ourselves off from opportunities of improving and of developing ourselves. I love this logic. It makes perfect sense. If we are looking down on someone then we won’t even consider the possibility they have any positive qualities that are better than we possess ourselves. So even when interacting with them there will be this barrier and we will learn nothing from the experience or from them. In effect we will be living in a bubble where at best we could stay as we are or, more likely become more negative and embittered with the world around us.

However if we approach people openly, looking for their attributes whilst admitting we are not the best thing going ourselves then our days, our individual moments and conversations will enrich us.

So far, so secular. HH Karmapa then looked at this argument from a Buddhist perspective. Firstly, he said it is important to realise too that ‘seeing ourselves as lower’ does not mean we should live in a permanent state of self degradation, having jettisoned our own self esteem. Misinterpreting it like this is called in Tibetan Buddhism ‘the laziness of self deprecation’ where we do nothing because we think we aren’t good enough to improve.

Secondly, a Boddhistattva (a person who works for the benefit of all living beings, who puts their welfare before her own) would therefore see no end to learning. Because a Boddhisattva sees himself as lower than others there is no end to their learning; no matter where they are or who they are, they would be open to their environment and the people around them.

Sounds a great way to be alive to me.

 


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Donald J Trump; a Buddhist view

If you have been reading my twitter feed for the few months you will have seen on a daily basis that the new President of the USA gets my goat. I don’t agree with his policies, his morals or his attitude to anyone who questions him. In short he makes me very angry and anger is a negative emotion in Buddhism, creating suffering for me and probably others in the present and myself in the future as well.

This week I was lucky to attend two evening teaching sessions from the Australian nun Venerable Roina Courtin. She spoke initially about happiness and covered a lot of topics around this including unhappiness, delusions, attachment, love, compassion, self esteem, relationships and quite a bit else. Toward the end she mentioned when bad things are happening in the news and you see someone who is acting or speaking in a negative way. She said you can approach this from two viewpoints:

  1. With wisdom, by a) saying to your self “Thank you for showing the ways not to act or speak” and b)recognising the anger, attachment and pride in others that we ourselves also possess.
  2. With love and compassion by wishing a) the person would create less suffering by their words and actions and b) wishing the person had less suffering and delusions that cause such words and deeds

I present these ideas , not as someone who has been able to implement them, but rather as someone who thinks they are a good idea and would be delighted to even start reacting less negatively to every tweet and media appearance from the leader of the free world.

Finally of course, this is my interpretation of what Venerable Robina said. If any part of it is incorrect, it is due to my misunderstanding not hers.

You can find more about Venerable Robina and her fantastic teachings here


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A loverly meditation

Someone just shared this fantastic meditation with me. It is given by Ajahn Amaro who is an Abbot in the Thai forest Tradition of Buddhism. He is based at Amaravati Buddhist Centre in SE England.

He speaks wonderfully during this meditation about “Setting the intention to learn from whatever arises …. or however the mind is…… as things go in that direction we learn from that. If they go according to our wishes or …. if the mind is filled chattering thoughts, the body uncomfortable, with waves of agitated emotions… one after another after another then we learn from that.

Whether it is liked or disliked, wanted or unwanted, expected or unexpected. Everything will teach us if we let it…if we’re wise the painful and unliked difficult experiences will teach us as much as, if not more than, the wished for and likeable, beautiful experiences…. because then everything benefits us; the beautiful, the difficult and the neutral.”

Anyways I could write ALL the things he says, but it would be better for you to listen to the words as they were actually said on the video above

Notes:

  • I found this meditation via the Facebook https://www.facebook.com/dailymeditation365/ which aims to share a mindfulness and meditation practice every day for 2017
  • I was lucky enough to visit there for a couple of days this Summer and wrote about my experience here and here


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Talking to myself


Many times I sit on my cushion I spend the 20 minutes simply thinking about how things could be or should be; then the alarm goes and I have hardly even noticed, let alone paid attention to, even one breath.

This morning I was reading Pema Chodron in ‘When things fall apart’ on discursive thought. She explained how it is one of the things that we lean toward that stops us properly feeling how we are right now. We hook onto it and away we go endlessly chatting to ourselves, avoiding the ‘edginess of our loneliness’ as she calls it.

In meditation, we try to let go of that internal monologue and rest without moving left or right, without blaming someone else or playing our dog-eared victim card, without seeking resolution from this present moment. Because all our life we have sought  this resolution and never has it brought more than momentary satisfaction before the next urge to jump toward hope or away from fear kicks in.

Instead we could try breaking our habit and ‘sit and feel what we feel…. stay on the spot…. not judge or grasp at whatever arises in the mind’. Then we can ‘discover a fresh unbiased state of being’ (all from chapter 6)

I share all this firstly because what Pema Chodron says is wonderful and it can help us all who would like to be more mindful or improve our practice and secondly because by thinking, reflecting and writing about her work I can understand it all just a bit more even if at the moment my practice is more akin to this cartoon below then what i have just tried to describe.


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Mid Life Questions

Personally, I have married, mortgaged and helped raise 3 children Professionally, I have studied, qualified,  applied, been appointed and worked. And now I have a family, a career, savings and a house. All is good. Well done me.

Around about the time William the conqueror was searching out King Harold at Hastings, a  Tibetan saint Milarepa was coming out of a long time of retreat and realisation. He wrote:

“All worldly pursuits have one unavoidable and inevitable end, which is sorrow

Acquisitions end in dispersion; buildings in destruction; meetings in separation; births in death.

Knowing this one should, from the very first, renounce acquisition and heaping up, and building and meeting,

And faithful to the demands of an eminent guru, set about realising the truth, which has no birth or death.

That alone is the best science.”

I read this quote in Vicki Mackenzie’s excellent book on Tenzin Palmo called “Cave in the Snow”. Tenzin Palmo is an East ender who became a Tibetan nun in the early 60s and has spent at least 12 years of her life meditating in a cave 12,000 feet up in the Himalayas, which certainly fits in with this definition of good science.

So if you think the spiritual is worth pursuing, to what extent is it worth pursuing? If you believe there is something other, something else, then what value should you place on the material? How do you get the right balance?

I am sorry this is all questions and no answers. You need to read someone a lot more enlightened than me to get some of those. Though Milarepa may be an extreme place to start.

Wikipedia on Milarepa here

Biography of Milarepa here

cave in the snow

 

 

 

 

 


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There is suffering (and this is good news)

Man goes off to find the meaning of life. Man finds the meaning of life – he actually finds it. He has the answer. At first he chooses not to tell anyone else as he is not sure they will understand, but after a short while he remembers 5 old friends he left after a falling out; he thinks they might get it and decides to teach them.

So, after finding what life is all about he gives his first talk. He must have thought long and very carefully about what to say. If he were to pitch it wrong, to choose the wrong words his discovery might never get shared, might become lost again. So his opening point in his first ever talk after working out the meaning of life was …..

THERE IS SUFFERING

Now that may be perceived at best as dull or mundane and more likely as depressing. But really it is exactly the right starting point. Because he didn’t say “you will suffer” but “there is suffering” so it is not your fault you felt bad, you are not the reason things aren’t going 100% your way. We don’t need to blame ourselves when things don’t work out how we had wished. We can drop that train of thought we like to run about how we are no good, how we cannot cope, how we are a failure. Equally, we can release that string of ideas blaming our father, our boss, our education, that company or whatever else we like to rage against. They are just as much not to blame as we are not to blame. There is suffering. It is part of life.

And at that moment of noticing the suffering we can try two thing. Firstly, just feel that disappointment, that raw hurt; don’t let those thoughts run away with their “what if’s” and the “if only’s”. Instead we can notice them and let them go. Because right there is the chance to move on, to begin to release the untrue storylines of  blaming ourselves or someone/something else. And secondly we can realise that everyone else feels exactly the same in their lives. There is suffering for everyone. Understand that and compassion and love, empathy and care will naturally follow.

I think therefore Buddha chose wisely when he chose the very first part of his discovery to speak about.

(This post was inspired by starting to read Pema Chodron’s “fail fail again fail better”)