Tag Archives: Buddhism

The Seat of Zen

I can suffer or I can sit in chaos. I choose chaos. It’s where I take my seat in Zen while the world whirrs.

In some moment, I will be swept up. There’s no immunity nor should there be. Life is an experience. The seat of Zen keeps me in the moment I have and only there.

The drama of the storm around me swirls but I experience only the energy of the present moment.

I am not here to escape anything. I’m here to live. Pain is integral to the life experience but suffering is not. That is a choice. Suffering is not sitting in the seat of Zen for suffering is to believe a single experience will never end.

It is not the nature of the energy that animates us to aspire to a stagnant state. Pain and joy evolve, no one state stays.

When I consider my life in that context, each experience I have—pain or joy— is a visitor, sometimes an unwelcome one but a visitor offering me the unknown.

As Pema Chödrön teaches, that visitor will have its say. I must remain open, sitting in the seat of Zen, able to receive. Each experience changes me, like the ongoing cell regeneration in my body. It is not in my being to stagnate.

Zen offers me a life lens, ever adjusting for available light.

Aim for Even posts offer equanimity a dose at a time. No day or dose is ever the same, even if the aim is. You may read about the origins of Aim for Even here or on this site’s About page.

 

Experience is its Own Expedition

Pema Chödrön taught me not to suppress my emotions but to enlarge my sense of what it is to be alive.

It is a job, this life. I am moved by the emotion of my experience—it is mine to move through–but sometimes, I get stuck.

Experience is its own expedition. Drama lurks around every bend, often with demons of my own making. ochlocknee-river-0215

Emotion is the ego’s playground. Why leave? After all, there is something to be said for the familiar demon.

Familiarity wears thin, though.

I immerse myself in the emotion—the drama that feels as if it is my entire life. I am on an expedition to learn and then to let go, to become “groundless.”

Whatever we discover, as we explore it further,

we find nothing to hold onto, nothing solid,

only groundless, wakeful energy.

(Pema Chödrön)

It feels a new day, even if it’s just been an hour or two, and sometimes it feels a new year, even if it is not.

Events and emotions are mere scenes in a daily drama, each replaced by whatever comes next, and something always does.  

Aim for Even posts offer equanimity a dose at a time. No day or dose is ever the same, even if the aim is. You may read about the origins of Aim for Even here or on this site’s About page.

 

 

A Taste of Shenpa, Hot and Spicy Wings

As one who loves to eat, I am always on the lookout for food’s goodness. For 58 years, there was not a food or drink that I did not indulge, no matter the consequences to my health.

Six years ago, those consequences came to call. The years of binge eating and poor nutrition choices resulted in numerous food allergies. Every time I ate, I was in digestive discomfort and my joints hurt.

I was always hungry, unable to absorb most nutrients. It took three years of researching and experimenting to figure out which foods feed my body.

Sometimes, I resort to old eating behaviors. It often happens as I come out of an autoimmune disease flare up. It is the craving mindset—shenpa in Buddhism—getting hooked or sucked in by an old choice.

I have been craving hot and spicy wings, a mindset that accompanied most of my flare-up. Yesterday, the mindset broke through. I wrote through lunch and into the midpoint of the afternoon. It was too early for supper and too late for dinner.

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That is prime time for purchasing hot and spicy wings prepared by a nearby grocery store. They are not breaded, no sugar is used but they do have natural flavorings, a catchall ingredient that is ever mysterious and never natural.

I told myself I would eat just a few, maybe four, and so I ate six, possibly seven. Within a few hours, I was feeling the effects but this time a poor choice proved a good result.

For the first time, the reality of joint pain and digestive discomfort–increasing inflammation–was more powerful than my craving for hot and spicy wings.

Insufficient fuel for my body—mindfulness—meant more than mindset.

Literally, the pain from eating the wings was more powerful than my craving. It seemed only seconds and the craving was gone. I doubt its return.

There is something to be gained for straying into food choices that do not fuel my body. Over time, I have learned which nutrient dense foods will help even out my body’s reaction.

This time, I got results within hours; that does not always happen. I remain grateful.

Eating mindfully is not about labeling food as good or bad. There’s no judgment involved. Mindful eating means being aware of what each food offers my body. All food is fuel. The choice is mine.

Aim for Even posts offer equanimity in daily doses. No day or dose is ever the same, even if the aim is. You may read about the origins of Aim for Even here or on this site’s About page. 

 

To Know the Tenderness of Pain

When we are rigid with fear, anger, or hurt— pain that requires action–we want to fight back. Give as good or maybe even better as was done to us.

That is pretty much our human history, be it political elections or world war. We cannot seem to break this habit of my way or the highway.

We might consider bodhichitta, a Sanskrit word translated as “noble or awakened heart.” Buddhists believe bodhichitta is the “genuine heart [that is] inherent in all beings.”

Every. Single. Being. On. This. Planet.

No matter how committed we are to unkindness, selfishness, or greed,

the genuine heart of the bodhichitta cannot be lost.

It is here in all that lives, never marred and completely whole.

(Pema Chodron)

Think of it. Bodhichitta is within us and has been all along, a genuine heart that withstands the tenor of any time and is especially effective in uncertain days, like these.

Bodhichitta may seem too good to believe. Yet, we write story after story about the awakened heart—the flawed hero who makes good. The genuine heart of the bodhichitta may be our all-time favorite plot line.

On some level, we still believe in the soft spot of the awakened heart. The noble will soften the hardened. After all, it does happen.

It took me most of my 64 years to touch my soft spot. Oh, I still rant and rave—even cry–for to live is to know pain but I no longer hold onto it.

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I find Wendell Berry’s “peace of wild things… and rest in the grace of the world.”

Just as a jewel that has been buried in the earth for 1 million years

is not discolored or harmed, in the same way this noble heart is

not affected by all of our kicking and screaming.

A jewel can be brought out into the light at any time,

and it will glow as brilliantly as if nothing had ever happened.

(Pema Chodron)

Eventually, a sliver of light becomes a beacon, sometimes a rainbow, but light nonetheless. In opening my heart with tenderness, I connect with the pain of all other beings.

Equanimity knows no enemies; compassion only kindness. Unconditional love.

(All excerpts are from Pema Chodron’s When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times)

Aim for Even posts offer equanimity in daily doses. No day or dose is ever the same, even if the aim is. You may read about the origins of Aim for Even here or on this site’s About page.