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Every morning we put on clothes that allow us to function within our daily activities and obligations. For early exercisers, workout attire is the first clothing of the day. Others begin the morning with work clothes or simply day wear. We all wear clothing that gives us a functional identity in the world, whether a standard uniform, jeans and t-shirt or more a more formal work outfit.
In the same way, we take on functional identities in our lives to fulfill needs, aspirations and obligations. We may be a parent, a friend, a spouse, a programmer and an artist, all in one day. We may also be a meditator and yoga practitioner. Take a look at what you do each day and see how fluid your identity is based on your activates and interactions. I call this functional identity because it serves a purpose but is not fixed; it is subject to change over hours, days, weeks, years and decades. If you cling to identity as concrete and unmoving, you will suffer through the inevitability of change and impermanence.
Most of us don’t cling to our clothes, at least not for long. We change them as needed and realize they aren’t who we are. We recognize the impermanence of any particular set of clothes. If only we could view our perception of self in the same way, our suffering would decrease significantly.
When you realize experientially that the identity you cling to is not fixed and is subject to change and impermanence, you will taste liberation. Your functional identity serves a purpose and doesn’t need to be denied or eliminated, but it is ultimately a kaleidoscope of change over the course of a lifetime. It’s no more permanent than your clothes.
What is your true nature, what is your mind? When you let go, you will find joy and equanimity in this very moment. You will begin to wake up from the illusion of a fixed self and know freedom within the endless flux of experience, of activity, of living and dying.
“I came to realize clearly that mind is no other than mountains and rivers and the great wide Earth, the sun and the moon and the stars.”
~~ Eihei Dogen
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?
Updated, easy to navigate, a greatly improved site. Click here to visit One Dharma’s new site.
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.