In this dharma talk, I share my experiences visiting the Sivananda Yoga Ashram in the Bahamas and how dashed expectations were converted into a fulfilling dharma experience.
This dharma talk explores the comical “oatmeal incident” and how to meet all of experience directly and openly through the awakened heart/mind.
D: Hi Enlightenment, I’ve been waiting for you, where’ve you been?
E: I have been here all along, but you rarely recognize me. You look right at me, but you don’t see me.
D: I thought you were over the next hill or two and that I have to keep searching. I catch glimpses of you from time to time, but you always disappear.
E; That’s what everybody says
D: To tell the truth, I’m surprised you’re here. I’m not good enough for you. Probably never will be. I’m trying to be a better person but I feel like a failure.
E; Yeah, I hear that one a lot too. Go ahead and work on being kinder and more compassionate, but do it for others, not me. Do it for the world.
D: Thanks, but that might be hard. I seem to be stuck in a lot of, well, delusion.
E: That’s ok, I’m not going anywhere. I don’t care how deluded you are.
D: Really? Is my practice a waste of time then? I’ve got a long to do list and I need to get on it.
E: If you don’t meditate, you won’t see me as much, you won’t recognize me. But now that we’ve met, if you think you know me, you’ll be mistaken. You’ll be stuck with only memories. That’s fine, its not my business, but it will make you miss me even more – its your nature to miss me.
D: Then how do we work together?
E: We are together, we’re not separate. I’m always here, even in your most deluded moments. You can’t get rid of me and I can’t get rid of you so let’s make peace.
D: Ok, that sounds good. But can I check my phone first?
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At times like this, you may be tempted to let the momentum of anger and outrage pull you away from meditation practice. In fact, sitting still with anger can be very uncomfortable. But don’t let that stop you. Keep sitting – not to get rid of anger, if that’s what you’re feeling, but to become intimate with it. Welcome the discomfort. In the stillness we can allow our awareness, our love, to embrace the anger. What is it telling us at the heart level? Perhaps as we sit, as the dust settles a bit, we become more aware of the fullness of the anger and what accompanies it. For me, right now I encounter sadness and fear for our country. I also encounter a love that can’t be vanquished by hate. Tears flow and I find room in my heart for it all. The beauty and the ugliness – they all serve to awaken my heart and remind me to remain steadfast in love while standing against hate, prejudice and separation, whether in my own heart or in the world.
I’m reminded of these verses from the Shambhala Warrior training:
“In the crucible of meditation, bring forth day by day into your own heart the treasury of compassion, wisdom and courage for which the world longs.
Sit with hatred until you feel the fear beneath it. Sit with fear until you feel the compassion beneath that.
Do not set your heart on particular results. Enjoy positive action for its own sake and rest confident that it will bear fruit.
When you see violence, greed and narrow-mindedness in the fullness of its power, walk straight into the heart of it, remaining open to the sky and in touch with the earth.
Staying open, staying grounded, remember that you are the inheritor of the strengths of thousands of generations of life.
Staying open, staying grounded, recall that the thankful prayers of future generations are silently with you.
Staying open, staying grounded, be confident in the magic and power that arise when people come together in a great cause.
Staying open, staying grounded, know that the deep forces of Nature will emerge to the aid of those who defend the Earth.
Staying open, staying grounded, have faith that the higher forces of wisdom and compassion will manifest through our actions for the healing of the world.
When you see weapons of hate, disarm them with love.
When you see armies of greed, meet them in the spirit of sharing.
When you see fortresses of narrow-mindedness, breach them with truth.
When you find yourself enshrouded in dark clouds of dread, dispel them with fearlessness.
When forces of power seek to isolate us from each other, reach out with joy.
In it all and through it all, holding to your intention, let go into the music of life. Dance!”
The Osher Center at Vanderbilt will be offering a professional development program in mindfulness facilitation starting on August 25 and there’s still time to register.
I’ll be guest teaching as my schedule permits. The name of the program is “Professional Development in Mindfulness Facilitation.” This promises to be an excellent program, worth checking out. Full information is at the Osher class site link, scroll down until you see the class.
In this dharma talk, Lisa explores the gap between expectation and reality, perception and direct experience. Through minding the gap and stepping in, we release our ideas of how things should be and find freedom and intimacy with life in its essence.
For those interested in joining our tour to India in November, here is a closer look at some of the main places we will be visiting.
After touching down and catching our breath for a day in Delhi, our first stop will be Bodh Gaya, where the Buddha attained nirvana sitting under a Bodhi tree. A descendant of that same tree marks the supposed exact spot, and next to it sits the magnificent Mahabodhi “Great Awakening Temple.” It is a very powerful place for meditation and contemplation.
Bodh Gaya is the holiest site in Buddhism and Bodh Gaya has been the most important pilgrimage place for Buddhists for thousands of years. Most Buddhist nations have built a temple here in their own style, and it is also the site for the Dalai Lama’s annual Kalachakra “Wheel of time” tantric initiations.
From the peace and quiet of Bodh Gaya we will head to the world’s oldest continuously inhabited city, on the banks for the holy river Ganges.
Here we will wander the alleyways of the ancient city, take a boat ride on the Ganges, and witness the aarti prayer ceremonies, where flowers and floating candles are released onto the river.
Varanasi is also the site of the deer park where the Buddha delivered his first sermon, the First Turning of the Wheel of Dharma at Sarnath. Today it is still an important place for Buddhists and a well maintained park centered around the ancient brick stupa, with an excellent museum exhibiting millennia of Buddhist history.
From Varanasi we have a train journey and a drive up to the mountain region of Sikkim in the Himalayan foothills, sandwiched between Tibet, Nepal, and the Buddhist kingdom of Bhutan. Buddhism continues to thrive in the Himalayas, and this is where we will spend the final leg of this tour, to experience life in a living Buddhist culture.
We will be staying with families in village homestays, meeting the monks, and meditating in the local monastery temple. There will also be time for contemplation in the peace of the region, as well as visiting nearby temples and ruins with stunning Himalayan scenery.
Full details and registration can be seen on the website here, and please get in touch with either Lisa at firstname.lastname@example.org or Soul of India at email@example.com if you have any questions.
This dharma talk explores the intersection of delusion and Buddha Nature, how the awakened heart/mind is always available, even in the most difficult moments.
One recent morning while meditating, I was reflecting on the nature of delusion. 2017 started off as a difficult year for me, and having struggled with a multiplicity of challenges, I felt at times as if I were drowning in delusion. Then, a moment of remembering and I was at peace: the awakened mind is nowhere but here, right in the very midst of seemingly impenetrable delusion.
This is my reflection:
Delusion and Buddha Nature are not separate. Our human nature includes delusion and clarity. When delusion is fully seen and known, this is enlightenment. What allows this alchemy? Letting go of identification with a fixed “self.” A simple shift in perspective and the seeming duality of delusion and enlightenment dissolve.
When we think we have a self that we need to endlessly polish, hone and improve, we get caught in the illusion that awakening is elsewhere. Yes, we need our practice to help us remove what clouds the clarity of mind. As Suzuki Roshi said, “Enlightenment is an accident. Practice makes us accident prone.” Yet in the very midst of delusion, if we see it fully, we are free.
How does this happen? As the mind and heart become still, desire and grasping fall away and there is only this moment and no one needing to do anything, change anything or even see anything. Here there is no self to fix , no self to enlighten. Here is the place of peace. I’m reminded of a quote from Albert Camus: “In the midst of winter I found there was, within me, an invincible summer. And that makes me happy.”
Shortly after I wrote this reflection, I vaguely remembered this teaching from my very early years of practice in the Zen tradition. At that time, my understanding of this teaching was beneficial to me, but it only occasionally extended beyond my meditation practice into daily life. A google search brought me to Dogen’s Genjo Koan. Here’s a short piece:
“Delusion and enlightenment are originally inseparable. What is called delusion is as it is and what is called enlightenment is as it is. Delusion should not be detested and enlightenment should not be devoured. They are as they are and they do not get in the way at all. They are inseparable. This is what is reverberating beyond words and you should not overlook this.
If Buddhas recognize themselves as enlightened there is polarization of self and other. This is not enlightenment. You realize enlightenment through delusion and you are deluded through enlightenment. At the place of seeing, knowing perishes and the mind is stilled.”