It’s my belief that we Buddhists are quite a fortunate lot. We’re used to sitting (and sitting, and sitting, and sitting again) with our deep murky minds and examining our fears, desires, habits, tendencies and for lack of a better description “the dark side” (and conversely, “the light side”).
Don’t we sound lucky?
Maybe I’m romanticizing things here, but I think that all of this inquiry into suffering, bodily decay and all of the juicy stuff helps position us to know when we’re a bit off kilter and shaky. It helps when we know ourselves to better see when we are in need of some help.
For a while I’ve been off. Heavy stuff has been going on in my life and as usual I’ve practiced avoidance. Thankfully I haven’t gone towards old (and more destructive) patterns of escaping. My avoidance is much more gentle now, Like a comfortable old sweater, I pull on old episodes of Seinfeld. I try to fill my time with things that comfort me. I make myself busy. I read a lot of self-help books. I read so many books to allow me to become a self-certified expert on disease, death, palliative care, depression, anxiety, yoga, french verbs, competitive eating, climate change…anything to escape.No subject is off limits when it comes to helping me feel less antsy.
You get the picture.
I avoid my cushion because I don’t want to face what’s hurting.I avoid facing it head on off the cushion as well.
I put on the stiff upper lip and carry on.
The pain remains. The confusion stays.
I sometimes feel like a failed Buddhist at times for not being better at this life stuff. I mean, I’ve been practicing for years here. Shouldn’t I be better at getting this impermanence business? Shouldn’t I see how samsara pulls me in? Shouldn’t I be sitting more? Shouldn’t I be more – sigh- mindful about all of this?
Newman is my Mara. Come indulge in some fine laughtracks. I’ll make you feel OK for a little while.
And then a little light shines in. Awareness that these habits aren’t serving me very well.
I can’t say enough about the power of a good therapist. I wish I would have continued working with mine back when I first went to see her when I started to feel cracks in my foundation. Ah regret. You’re a fine emotion too. I feel you too old friend. Well, it’s time to live in the present. I’m back in therapy and doing the work. I’m trying to find that gentle spot between being too slack with myself and cuddling up with Kramer and a glass of merlot or running off to a retreat in snowy Vermont. I’m trying both as the Middle Way approach and putting my therapist’s suggestions into practice. More mindfulness and compassion practices. Taking time to breathe (how often I forget). Trying to release my grip on my ever-present need to have control over it all. Being with what is. Practicing. On and off the cushion. Facing my fears.
I think almost every time I write about a book on this blog, I say the familiar, “Isn’t is awesome when a book crosses your path at the exact moment that you needed it?” I’ve been reading two meaningful books lately which have really been helpful at this time.
The first is Mark Epstein’s “The Trauma of Everyday Life” and it is all that I needed to read and more. Transforming all of the sads that I’ve been feeling into something workable and positive gets a “Hell Yeah” fist pump out of me. The book gets into the often left out story of the loss of the Buddha’s mother and how this may have impacted his life.
The second book that I’ve only started reading now is Tara Brach’s “Radical Acceptance.” Friends. Why did you not recommend this book to me earlier? I am now a complete fangirl for her writing and it’s just what I needed to bury my head in.
It’s funny how when I hear about other Buddhist practitioners who have worked with their own challenges (like Epstein and Brach) and realize that I’ve fallen into the trap of thinking that they’re somehow immune to suffering or have become therapist-enlightened enough to not have experienced it or gotten over it. Similarly, when I read about teachers such as Pema Chodron or Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche confessing to having panic attacks, feeling overwhelmed or in essence – being human, I’m strangely comforted in knowing I’m not alone. If these rockstars have been confronted with stinking thinking – then I’m no different. Blessed equanimity!
And you’re not alone either. If you are a Buddhist with the blues, seek help if you need it. We need all the healthy bodhisattvas we can get out there doing the work.
Oh and coincidentally, I just read this article titled, “Emotional Health is the new Sexy” on Elephant Journal and wanted to share it with you.
Raise your hand if you’re starting to feel your age. If you can lift you arm.
Time’s really marching on. We Buddhists are aware of this on a “we hear, contemplate and study this kind of thing all the time” but when it really hits you – ooof.
There’s a guy that goes to many of the heavier music shows and this guy is righteous. He has a long ZZ Top-esque beard that is as white as snow and he wears obscure band t-shirts on his skinny rocker frame. He’s into it all. He’s not going through the neuroses that I’ve seen people go through when they hit their mid-life crisis and worry about what people think of them. Whether they’re too old for Manic Panic tinged hair. For skirts that are above the knee. Any of the rules that generations hear and then berate themselves over.
Dude just rocks out and doesn’t give a flip.
I read this Salon article recently and maybe it’s the wannabe sociologist in me but I get fascinated by how others are viewing this life transition. Are we aging in the same way as our parents? Are our values and priorities the same? Easier? Harder? Just different?
I buy up a lot of books and read a lot of studies on my generation because it’s a weird generation. Maybe it’s just me that has that feeling of it being weird or maybe it’s a generational thing that we’re all feeling because we’re Gen X-ers and well *shrugs shoulders.*
From the Salon article I mentioned above, “If you think this is typical Gen X whining, you are probably a boomer.”
Speaking of my generation…. I watched this lovely short film on Dharma Punx NYC’s Josh Korda and think you should check it out.
What do you think of being a Gen X-er? A Gen- X Buddhist? How are you navigating your new old agedness? Does it make you want to start a band? Pick up your skateboard again?
Here’s a great video from Tyler Dewar that speaks quite nicely to the non-proselytizing nature of Buddhism. I always liked this aspect of the tradition.
It’s funny how when I speak to being a Buddhist (when it comes up), people expect me to try and convert them. There’s a fear in their eyes that I’m going to get them to twist into a lotus-legged pretzel, do some kind of phlegmey nose breathing exercises and then try to engage them in some greasy, tantric sex as I thrust with a howling deep throat singing eruption of nyan-cat proportions.
Sadly nope. None of that happens.
It’s all pretty chill. You choose your own path friend and I wish you love, peace, blessings and freedom from suffering.
No hard sell there.
Polar vortex season is just around the corner and another Canadian winter to grit my teeth through is licking at my Vans.
Not a fan. Yes I know. Equanimity. Yes. There’s likely a sermon about some wise ass who got hit with a boot (it’s beyond sandal weather, so take that Tilopa) for disparaging the weather. Sorry. I’m doing my best. A Buddhist Work in Progress.
It’s been a while since I’ve done a linkage list. Here’s what’s hit my radar as interesting, irritating, passionate, aggressive or neutral. Enjoy!
- I’ve been reading a few more non-Buddhisty books. I just finished Lena Dunham’s book (I freaking loved it!) and am just starting to crack a Kindle spine for “The Secret History of Wonder Woman.” Here’s a link to an excerpt in case your curious. Not that everything I’m reading is fun and games, I thoroughly enjoyed Atul Gawande‘s “Being Mortal.”
- This is a bit of an older blog post, but oh it’s too good not to share. “Hits and Misses on This Wonky Path” from 108 Zen Books. And the discussion around mindfulness continues on and on and on… I will likely be debating it during my next lifetime.
- Art from Carlito Dalceggio
- More art – Michelangelo Pistoletto
- A closer look at how habits work from Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche.
Hugo Latulippe is the new spokesperson of ‘A Day in Tibet’
Montreal, November 4, 2014 : ‘A Day in Tibet’ is Quebec’s largest event dedicated to the fascinating Tibetan culture and its presevation. This year’s edition will take place Nov. 8 – 9, at Notre Dame de la Salette Church, in Montreal (3535 Parc Ave).
This annual event brings together Quebec’s Tibetan community and thousands of Montrealer interested in the Tibetan culture, religion and human rights.
This year’s spokesperson is Hugo Latulippe – filmmaker, author and long time supporter of the Tibetan cause. His award winning documentary What remains of us is still a remarkable contribution that brings awareness to the Tibetan culture, in Québec and beyond. His activist art is echoed by the Cultural Fair participants: ‘once you bring objects into the world, through painting, sculpture, film, or anything else, you are an activist’, says Latulippe.
The event features a handicrafts bazaar, live traditional music and dance performances, as well as Tibetan cuisine. Many other events will take place throughout the two days: book launches, film screenings and debates, with the participation of writers, researchers and activists.
The event is a major fundraising activity for the Canada Tibet Committee, an independent non-governmental organization promoting human rights and freedom for the Tibetan people. The CTC is funded entirely by individual donations and special events. The Tibetan Cultural Association of Québec preserves Tibetan cultural traditions, including performing arts, within the diaspora community in Québec.
Saturday November 8, 10am – 6pm
Sunday November 9, 10am-5pm
Notre Dame de la Salette Church, 3535 Ave du Parc (corner Milton), Place des Arts Metro
Admission: $5; Seniors and students: $3; Under 12: free
More information: the event Facebook page
I just finished reading Andrew Furst’s book, “Western Lights” and do have to say that I enjoyed it quite a bit. It’s a collection of short essays that he recently published based on some of the blogging Andrew was doing for the Buddhist Meditation Group at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Reading.
From his website:
“It speaks about eastern concepts like Karma, Hope, Attachment, and Emptiness from a personal perspective and in terms familiar to Americans. They’re grounded in subject matter familiar to Americans like Politics, Science, Psychology, Heaven, and Nature.”
“Western Lights” covers a lot of ground with each short chapter and it’s a clear and concise read. It delivers snippets of Andrew’s personal perspectives, his background and his teachings. His childhood, Christian background, work and family all present strongly in how they relate to his approach to the Dharma.
It’s a modern, Western take on Buddhism and speaks a bit to various meditation practices that Andrew recommends as well as the practices within the Pure Land tradition of which he is a part of. Don’t let this scare you off. The book is quite accessible. One doesn’t need to be too immersed in the concepts of Buddhism to get something out of it so it’s ideal for those who are looking for a book that covers a bit of everything- kind of like a sample platter. You get a few bites of some tasty morsels and then if interested, you can then go back for the full meal, or in this case – read, study, examine and practice further (I’m still working on several platefuls of karma over here)!
The book is a clear and easy read. It isn’t too philosophical or advanced and perfect for those who are somewhat aware of Buddhist concepts. There’s a moderate smattering of pop-culture references as is de rigueur with today’s Western Buddhist books.
Go visit Andrew’s site now where you can find out more about “Western Lights.”
Really. Where does it go?
Yes friends. All I’ve really been doing on this blog lately has been book reviews. None of the mindless grumbling that you fell in love with this blog for. I’m still here. Buried on books for both pleasure and study.
Anyone else reading Nagarjuna AND the new Lena Dunham book? Just me? OK. Moving on….
I’m also busily editing the upcoming anthology for SUMERU which has been on of the best things to pop up in my little life. I do hope that everyone likes it once released although I’m biased and do think you will.
So yeah. Time. Doesn’t seem like enough of it these days. Both for the little piddily tasks and the BIG philosophical holy shit time is passing, a birthday around the corner, sickness, old age, death kind of way. Things are hitting close to home and that’s feeling more and more normal.
It’s funny when I’m hit with shitty news. Like shock you off your seat news. There’s a weird depersonalization sensation. I get blank. Like a black out only I’m fully aware of everything. I’m hearing what’s being said. The words. All clear to me. Your pain. Your fear. I feel it. I’m feeling mine too. Cue a panic attack. Cue the stumbling for words. Oh hey lightheadedness. How are you doing? Heart. Where are you racing off too? Get back in my chest. Woo. I want to run away.
Sitting down with it.
Reading everything I can find on how to deal. How to cope. Reading the tough stuff. Watching documentaries that force me to see it. Uncovering all of the discomfort and letting the light shine on it.
You can’t turn away from this Tanya. This is life. And part of life is death.
You knew this.
Where does the time go?