Thursday, March 15, 2012

As Wide as the Sky, As Deep as the Sea

" The Buddha realized that his search for an answer to the end of suffering assumed a self that sought after happiness, yet was haunted by extinction.  He understood how we try to maintain the familiar presence of self, whatever that means to us in each moment.  Sometimes we affirm "me" and sometimes we protect "me."  We bring desirable things toward "me" and push unwanted things away from "me" so that the parameters of "me" keep expanding and contracting.  All this pulling and pushing fans the flames of strong emotions, and we try even harder to drive home the point: "I exist."  Meanwhile, we live with the terror of an unavoidable death. We evaluate, organize, and struggle with everything we encounter in our attempts to substantiate the existence of a self.  This is the relationship with have with the world.

Try to visualize your world without the tug of "me" with all its preferences: all its efforts to find stable ground in the world of things and protect itself from unwanted experiences.  What would happen if, rather than organizing the world to suit the self, we stopped manipulating everything and instead just stayed present for our life?


Staying present challenges our habitual reactive tendencies.  You may recognize this scenario:  You're sitting at the dinner table, or in a room full of people, when suddenly everything falls quiet.  The space feels pregnant, full of possibility, and then that one person--it may even be you--gets overwhelmed, uncomfortable, and just has to talk.  This is how we deal with pregnant moments--we try to escape them through the continual re-creation of the self.  We are not accustomed to bearing witness to our own experience--our life--without putting a lid on it, manipulating it--reaching a conclusion about it, or ascribing meaning to it in some way.  But in doing this, do we ever have a full experience? "
~Elizabeth Mattis~Namgyel
The Power of an Open Question
© 2010

I wanted to share this passage with ya'll as when I read it, I heard it speaking to my heart.  It was not as if reading something new, but rather like reading someone describing my own experience.

Speaking for myself, within my experience of life with AgCC...the "internal world," such that it is becomes (or perhaps always has been, for me) an obsession of sorts.  It is said that many with my disability lack a clearly defined inner sense of self.  For me this had always been true...Furthermore, at 49 years old, I look back and see that I have spent the majority of my life, shoring up "me", protecting "I", and yet when I inquire, and I look for an I or me that such a concept either grows exponentially and blends with the world, or becomes smaller and smaller, tinier than an atom, yet defies any and all clear definition.

Many people misunderstand the realization of the Buddha and other sages from Indian religions.  Some would classify this type of thinking as Nihilistic, but in doing so, its evident that they miss the point entirely.  It is not that the sense of a self is unreal, to be denied...it is not that there does not appear a "you" and "I", a we, the world and things...not at all.

What he realized, and many of us who inquire have begun to realize is that all of these things are "functional illusions."  There is no doubt that on some level, many apparently obvious, that these concepts deep in the thought pattern of mankind helps us navigate and function "in the world."  Yet, if we, even for a moment look for a permanence, a solidity, an absoluteness to these things, thoughts, feelings, we find them only fleeting, with no permanence whatsoever.

One such thing the Buddha prescribes contemplation of, is impermanence.  Why is it, we want something, or someone so badly...then when we finally meet/receive the object of our desire, the passion for it is fleeting...and furthermore said thing, often is a source of suffering.

Example:  We see someone, we fall in love...whether we spend the rest of our lives with the person or not, or if we come to disagreement and go our separate ways, the very thing we cherish will one day be no more.  Should we be blessed to spend the rest of our breathing days with him or her, it is certain that one day they/we/I shall die and it be no more.

The point of this may not be readily apparent.  It is not to reject things, peoples, love, life and activity...far from it.  Rather the "point" (if there really is one), is that we cause ourselves profound and undue suffering, by expecting such things to give us a sense of solidity, of permanent joy and satisfaction...all the time our innermost core acknowledge this as a lie, knowing that one day all things come to an end.

Much of Indian literature makes use of the imagery of the Sea.  All is the water of the Sea, the waves are beautiful, resounding, brilliant, sparkling in the light of day...but these waves, were only just water, experienced in the moment crashing up against the shore, destined to return to the Sea.  The Sea is a metaphor for consciousness, for mind, from within which all arises and abides, and eventually recedes into.  We can increase (the awareness of our inherent) joy by flowing with what is, embracing, then freely releasing.  It is not things, people or activity that cause our suffering, they are "fine" just as they are.  It is our clinging, our desire to somehow make them more solid than we know they really are.  Ultimately this is true for what we call "me" or "I."  If we are still, and we try to locate the "I", we cannot truly find it...At first glance, "I" appear to be in the body...but where?  Am "I" in, or am I "my" mind?  And if I try to find a beginning or end to "mind", "soul", "spirit" or any other such concept, I cannot do so.

Such understanding, I discover is at the heart of all I know.  It has led me to an unthought conclusion that all "things" are perfect in and as they are.  I experience more joy, being in the present moment, not fretting of the past which no longer (or debatedly never) exists, nor of a future that is not (yet.)  All the while, there is still a sense of past and future, of joy in the moment...and I feel as a child, lost in utter abandoned wonderment of the beauty and spontaneity that appears before me.

Realizing that I and all sentient creatures seem to be caught between this paradox of "I-ness" that we somehow experience, while at the same time acknowledging its tenuousness and impermanence...how can I help but have compassion, for myself and each and everyone that I meet?

~Just Joe

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