I had a mindblowingly glorious weekend friends. My dear, beloved teacher, Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche gave teachings in my adopted home of Montreal this past Friday and Saturday. We were all thrilled to have him back on the East Coast!
It was the first time I as able to see him IRL so I was filled with all the emotions. Excitement. Fear. Joy. Panic. Peace. Awe. Goofiness. Dread. Regret. Did I say joy? It was all in there. It’s funny how the mind can get caught up in all of the story lines. Expectations. Fears. And then – poof – the letting go happens and we realize we’re out of the present moment. Only to return. Again. Forget and remember.
The weekend’s program was on the topic of “Resting the Mind at Ease” which is quite delightful and appropriate given how little at ease my mind has been in the past bit.
Side note: I may start referring to this time as my “grey period.” Just has Picasso had a phase of including blue in all of his works, I was coloring my world with the color tints of “Inescapable Grey,” “Powdery Ennui,” and “Depressed Oystershell.” I think there were many splashes of “Fearful Flax” and a bit of “Anxious Auburn” tossed in there as contrasting colors in life’s big paint swatch. (Thanks Gemma Correll for the artsy inspiration!)
I’ve always been blown away by Rinpoche’s teachings – be they from my encounters with them through the Nalandabodhi curriculum, his books, mp3’s or videos. Much of my engagement had been via these channels so to be in the same room, hearing his voice and being surrounded by other members of my sangha was truly a wonderful experience.
Without fail, there were laughs and references to pop culture (Space Invaders, Spiderman and The Transporter were all name dropped during the weekend). I often think maybe this is what attracted me to Rinpoche’s style in the first place. His appreciation of the quirkiness of our Western pop culture filled with the movies, music and TV shows that he loves to indulge in, and on the other hand – the ancient wisdom tradition that he’s studied and practiced for so long. There is that balance and that specific approach that really resonates with me.
Side note number two: I had no idea that Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche loved Spiderman comics.
But I digress…
You know that feeling when you come across the very teachings, a book, a passage or that conversation that you needed right in that moment in the headspace you’re in? Well this weekend was all of that. Resting the Mind at Ease. YES PLEASE!
- A tickle fight with my mind.
- A prize fight with thoughts where some reign victorious and others lay outside of the ring, battered and beaten.
- A “Twilight Zone” episode where the same repeating thought comes back… and back again.. then gone.. THEN IT’S BACK! Don’t turn around. IT’S STILL THERE!
- Sleepy time.
- A TIME TO EXPLORE ALL CAPS PAIN!
- A period of deep introspection and analytical pursuit. Toss in the Heart Sutra while you’re at it!
What is this relaxation you speak of? It’s been some time since I’ve viewed meditation this way. Granted it’s also been some time that I’ve felt fully relaxed off the cushion as well.
Often I think back to a Shambhala weekend I attended where we were asked why we are still practicing? What is our motivation? What brings us to the cushion? Powerful questions and I remember quite vividly that my motivation first came from a desire to work to rid myself from suffering. The suffering had weakened over time, only to return with a vengeance and now is starting to release its hold on me – or is it my hold on it?
Seeing how when my mind is at ease, it’s easier to help others be at ease and free from suffering brings it all back home. This is why I practice.
Time to do the work – both on and off the cushion. After my grey period, I feel even more purposeful and motivated to be of benefit, live with intention and shoot out some webs of compassion. Pew Pew Pew.
I’m reading more than ever, but not the kind of books I’ve been traditionally spending time with. For a while I was spending time reading and commenting on the latest Buddhist reads circling around the publishing world. It was enjoyable and I was able to satisfy my love of reading this way.
Then some realizations started to hit me.
- Am I reading books that fulfill me?
- What is my intention or purpose in reading/reviewing so many books? Is this a goal-oriented behavior at play?
So I’m now letting go. A digital pile has started of books that I won’t be reviewing. I’m fine with this – despite what my “Type A, gotta do it, gotta get to it, you are a failure for not keeping up” self says. The book hoarder in me is also feeling a bit lost.
I’m becoming more mindful of what books I’ve decided to focus my attention on. The result is that I’ve been having a zillion Oprah ‘Ah ha’ moments after reading a passage in a book that I needed to read in that very moment. I’ve been finishing a book and realizing that I’ve highlighted every single line! I’ve wept over my Kindle. I’ve felt my heart open. I’ve photographed pieces of paragraphs that resonated and used them as screensavers. I’m a much more passionate reader given this new perspective.
A few weeks ago, I was talking with my therapist about my tendency to not want to step into the spotlight, but to prefer the stories of others and share their experiences.
“Hey look at the bravery of this guy! He’s admitting he’s fucked up and getting help. I love this!”
“Oh wow. Check out the compassion that they displayed in this YouTube clip.”
“Wanna check out a link to a great blog by a girl who is living her life through reviewing the books of other people because she is in so much pain, depressed as shit and is so scared to bare her own life and story out of fear of rejection, trolling, failure and an overall wish to not be seen?”
I’m rediscovering quite a bit these days and for those of you who initially followed this blog because it came from someone who was trying to dip a toe in being more authentic, more present, more honest… well… I’m back.
For the book reviews, I’m sure there are loads of great sites to check out. Here are a few suggestions.
He passed away on Monday after declining health due to old age. I am saddened to the core. My house is empty. His sounds are no longer present. Memories arise from seeing his socks, his leash, tufts of his fur. Choked by the sadness of missing him. Comforted in knowing he had a full and beautiful life. It’s a big roller coaster of emotion.
Seeing the nature of impermanence when you lose your best friend to old age and sickness. Touching in on the suffering that I feel. That we all feel. Exploring the nature of feeling sad, scared, lost, hurt, attached, overwhelmed, groundless.
This is the path. It’s not easy, but it’s the path.
It’s been a while friends. You’re used to my spotty updates by now. That’s why we’re friends
- You all know that I love me some hooky, poppy, powerful punk rock. I’m a big fan of PEARS (who I have to credit Rod from Lion’s Roar for introducing me to). Recently their lead singer, Zach posted some honest talk about his struggles and his successes on Facebook and you should read it. Here’s a snippet that really resonated with me (as a fellow anxiety junkie) –
“And so I raise my glass of water: here’s to letting go. I shall try to no longer ask for joy, but to allow my myself to have it. This is about unlearning years and years of a bad inner monologue, a shitty script. This isn’t an issue of self control, this is a matter of self acceptance. I have tasted true freedom recently thanks to those who support me, and I want more.”
- Speaking of self-compassion… I just read this book recently and it is so very good. Get it for your self or other selves that you know who could use a little bit of kindness.
- My teacher, Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche is coming to teach in Montreal soon and I’m beyond happy. Like deliriously happy. It will be the first time I’ll be in the same room as him and not seeing him projected via images on a screen or a voice on a podcast or mp3 teaching. Anyone else have this kind of experience in after a long time of not encountering your teacher (or other significant person in your life) and then BOOM – they’re instantly a few feet away from you? Talking. Being. Maybe it’ll be like the time I saw Gene Simmons give a talk and I kept saying “Uhhhh….The 9 year old me would not believe that this is happening! Uhhh. I am going to throw up!” Or maybe it will be an ordinary experience. Like seeing a childhood pen pal and totally connecting over tea. Or maybe a blend of both experiences? Or a whole new one? Maybe I’ll strap a GoPro camera on my head to give a running commentary of it all. Or maybe I’ll just go with it.
- “The Dharma of Harm Reduction” from the mighty Buddhist Peace Fellowship is an important read.
- Ever read a blog post that summarizes how you feel? This is that post (minus the yachting!)
Unless you’ve been dwelling in a cave, you’ve been experience the global fascination with The Dress.
Thursday night before bed, I showed the photo of the dress to my poor, long suffering husband (he’s used to being subjected to a barrage of cute animal videos, deep philosophical ruminations, State of the Union Addresses on the current behaviour of our two pugs and a myriad of other complaints, quirky thoughts or passing fancies).
“It’s white and gold. How are people saying it’s black and blue?” I huffed to him while sticking my ipad in his tired face.
“It’s black and blue” he grumbled.
Then I became carried off in my frustration at #teamblackandblue and tried to demonstrate how I was seeing things correctly and he was mistaken.
Yesterday my social media feed was filled with debate, tweets, posts, likes, memes. The news concocted in-depth studies on the nature of vision, perception – everything under the sun that could make for a story to continue “Dressgate.”
It was while watching the late night news that I saw it. What I had perceived with my own two eyes SHIFTED. The dress became black and blue.
I’d take a black and blue dress over a white and gold one any day. So it blew the whole argument on how my preferences could be behind wanting to see a white and gold dress.
Now this dress is giving me much to think about from a Buddhist context.
Funny how that thing we call samsara works. There’s always something better just over there. Just out of reach. Close. Then so far. Oh. It’s back. Damm. I don’t want it anymore and there’s something new. Razzle dazzle. Super shiny. I hate the old and want the new thing. Lost the new thing. Stuck craving that new thing again only to have an even newer, better thing enter my thoughts.
Repeat again. It’s quite cyclical as we all know
At least we semi-quasi-still-not-yet-enlightened, shit-stained, yet spotless Buddhas-in-training know this is part of the gig of being human.
But does that help us feel better about it all? We have taken the red pill after all.
I was thinking about this recently after a chat with a spiritual friend who mentioned how fortunate I am to have a bunch of helpful strategies and terms in my ‘toolbox’ to help me better understand and navigate the world. Yes. I do feel quite lucky at times for this. What used to be filled before with hopes of pacifying pain with drugs, alcohol, love, food, <insert anything in this space that would offer some fleeting feeling of okay-ness> is now filled with understanding my motivations, the motivations of others and a deeper level of what’s at play. That step back to examine before reacting. I do suppose that is quite helpful and has served me well.
Then I wondered, what kind of life I would have had, had Buddhism not entered my life when it did. Not to get all “Sliding Doors” over here but I sometimes find myself indulging in thoughts to what my life would have been like had I not had the karmic Dharmic seeds blow through my life and take root.
Funny how life turns out.
May we all be free from suffering.
Sending over a little patch of sunlight your way given that much of the East Coast is about to be covered in snow Do stay safe and if you are so inclined, please donate to a local food bank to help lighten the load.
It’s quiet around these parts. Doing a lot of self care and self work. Had a little bit of nice sangha/study news that made my day and am also looking forward to a teacher who is traveling to Montreal to teach a course I’ve been quite interested in. All in all, things are chip chip cheery. So much so that I haven’t yet dug out my new SAD-busting lamp to see if that could help fight the winter blues.
Onwards to some linky goodness. What’s been hiding in my tabs and in the crevices of my RSS reader?
- Here’s a little bit of Buddhist humor that I found over on a friend’s Facebook page: “Buddhist Annoyed at Own Reincarnation.” I got a pretty good laugh out of it.
- I really enjoyed this blog post titled “The Quality of Mercy is not Strained.”
- Lose yourself in this song… and this video… Ahhhhh….
- For those of you who like me, complain about the weather, this piece in The Lion’s Roar by Pico Iyer will resonate.
- “Decency Is the Absence of Strategy” appeared in the Shambhala Times Community News Magazine and appears as part of their efforts to work with conflict that arises within their sangha. One of the things I really appreciate about the Shambhala community is their high level of organization and their aspiration to work with each other. I look forward to read more posts as a means to help in my own development, both on and off the cushion.
- Recovery 2.0’s latest online conference is just around the corner. Be sure to register if you are interested in recovery.
- Imagine my joy when I read this article (Best personal hashtag for my situation is #marriednokidstwopugs. Hojun Laura Jackson – I want to be a part of your girl gang who are gathering to contemplate these issues of birth and non birth
- Last but not leastly, one of the raddest guys out there, Miguel Chen had an article titled “Why Punk & Buddhism Beats “Us Vs. Them” featured on The Lion’s Roar. Fingers crossed we’ll see more from him in the future.