Sunday, December 18, 2011

No resistance

No Resistance
A continuing commentary on Radical Acceptance by Tara Brach

Our suffering points to resisting what actually is happening in this moment.  Our resistance is the great saying “no” to our life - the life of the moment and the life of our karmic story.  These two polarities of life, the mentally constructed story of consensus reality and the moment, always inter-embrace and arise together.  To take care of them both as one, we need to receive our life straightforwardly as it is with no resistance, and respond in the most wholesome, mindful way.

Resistance is the opposite of “saying yes” or Radical Acceptance.  We fight, hate, deny, try to escape our unpleasant sensations and suffering stories.  The more we do this, the farther in our heads we go, and the less in the present moment.  Our suffering points to our resistance and offers us an invitation to release, surrender, to allow what is.  Practice cultivates radical acceptance of pain and unpleasantness.  Learning to relax with our unpleasant sensations, we can meet them with a non-reactive awareness.

We can cultivate a direct practice of presence with our unpleasant sensations.

In Zen, we learn this through experience rather than instructions.  Sesshin is a great vehicle for increasing our capacity to be with negative sensations and emotions.  We learn through inner experimentation how to stay, stay, stay, with whatever is arising.  To stay upright as Reb Anderson would put it.  However,  the Vipassana tradition augments this experimentation with concise verbal instructions which my community and I have been studying in this past year.

Direct contact with compassionate awareness.

For many of us, we have to find and strengthen our connection with unbounded, unconditional openness or unconditional compassion. This is why we meditate and do longer retreats.  We have, innately, a natural connection with this openness and yet, we are not always in touch with it.   We can build our awareness by remembering to open our sense gates and allow ourselves to truly see life.  Look!  Look!  The Mystery!  Even on our sickbed, we can see the sky through the window or the love in our hearts for our visitors.  We can open to truth beyond the container of our selves and our stories.

Our practice is to return to the felt body sense and simultaneously open our field of awareness.  We can see that there is plenty of room in the vastness for the unpleasant sensation to be.  The unpleasant sensation is not permanent either.  It moves.  Sensations change. This too shall pass.  The presence of fear can stand just as it is.  Fear can open into universal perspective.  It is, as Thich Nhat Hanh says, the fodder for our liberation.  We can release our resistance over and over.  Nowhere to go and nothing to do. Just be with it ALL.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Disidentification with emotions

How can we feel our emotions and disidentify with them at the same time? Sometimes, it is worded:  how can I respond not react?  In Tara Brach’s wording, “How can I feel my negative emotions without adding on ‘there is something wrong with me’ or with this situation.”

Part of practice is learning to have an open, spacious awareness at the same time as being very intimate with the sensations that are happening right now.
                               Open awareness and direct contact.
We learn to hold the intimacy of feeling the bodily sensations of our emotions in an open spacious field of awareness.  Can we practice feeling our emotions in the body, and then, letting them flow by us without attaching to them or pushing them away?
                                Relax-open, receive, let go

Ken Mcloed writes in his book “Wake up to your life”: “Disidentification is the process through which a pattern becomes an object of attention.”  We practice bringing a compassionate attention, a compassionate presence or a surrendering presence to what is happening in this exact moment.  This is quite a different way of being than allowing the emotion to produce a big story that we feel compelled to react to.  In the development of the commentary, often a critical commentary, we bring more energy to the idea that “there is something wrong with me” or “this should not be happening.”  Devoid of radical acceptance, we can’t see things just as they are.

Another way of looking at disidentification is through the teachings of Vasubandhu’s Thirty verses on the Eight Consciousness.  Thich Nhat Hanh has a commentary on this  called “Transformation at the base”.   I am working with these teaching very practically in relationship to disidentification.   We must recognize that the seeds for all the emotions are impersonal and stored in the collective storehouse (alaya-vijnana)  They arise when the conditions are ripe in all people at certain times according to the arising of these special conditions.  They are not solely produced by “me” and cannot be judged “bad” or “good”.   They are actually the fodder for our practice.  Our afflictive emotions are the exact place of our practice.

Thich Nhat Hanh writes “Each of our afflictions, our unwholesome mental formations, contains Buddha nature and liberation.  When we are able to touch our habit energies and transform their roots, we turn them into liberation.”

What this means is that our afflictive emotions are “workable” not “bad”.  Indeed, they are the actual place transformation occurs.  Our feelings are a necessary part of human life.  We can teach ourselves to observe them, accept them, find tenderness right in the middle of the experience of them, and therefore, unbind them into simply this moment’s energy or truth.  With this softening and tenderness, it appears possible to respond not react. 

This is our invitation to release, to surrender, to allow and to establish a non-reactive awareness.  We can cultivate our ability to relax our resistance to unpleasant sensations and meet them as they are. There can be a turning around or reversal of our usual responses to emotions.  We can learn that everything we encounter can be opened into the truth of the moment and in some respects, be non-personal.  Releasing our resistance over and over,  this radical acceptance can open into transformation and allow for a wise response.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Saying "Yes" to this moment!

It’s strange how many decades it takes to digest the simplest instruction.  So many layers and “ideas” about the instruction have to be peeled off.  Our intellectual understanding keeps us in our heads without taking the instruction into our bodies and hearts.  Perhaps that’s why Katagiri-Roshi said, years ago, that one should practice for 10 years without reading anything.

Katagiri-Roshi, my original teacher, said, “No matter where we are, no matter what we face, like or dislike, we have to take care of this moment.  That’s all”.

Another time, he adds, “there’s no escaping this moment.”  He also acknowledges how difficult it is to do - to simply accept the moment as it is without commentary or evaluation. He says that we get lost in all the beings that arise in the moment.  The many beings of emotions, thoughts, memories, physical sensations, stories, conspire to drag us away from this moment.  Stay, Stay, Stay, with the actual sensations of the moment.  Actually if we really do stay in this moment, all the beings, the doubts and fears, drop off into the aliveness of what is actually dynamically happening now.  How can we learn to stay? Be brave enough to stay. Be strong enough to stay with our moment-to-moment experience?

I have been listening over and over to Tara Brach’s guided meditation of “saying yes to our life”.  We say “No” to a lot of things.  We resist, fight, evaluate and judge many things we don’t like that arise in our lives.  Or, on the other side, we accrue suffering by holding on to and grasping, and wanting more of all that we like.  What I have learned this fall, from Tara Brach’s book, is that if I say “no” long enough, I turn that contraction into “there is something wrong with me or my life” and that turns into judgment, shame and inadequacy.  She names it the trance of unworthiness.  We can break out of this trance by saying “yes” to the experience of life as it is.  “Yes” is surrendering.  Dropping off our evaluation and ideas about the moment, we can  break open the moment to what is true.  We can gently say “yes” to all beings.

Opening and saying “yes” to the “now” soften us.  It is quite different than the clenching of “no”.  There is a gentleness and radical acceptance of our karmic life the way it is arising.  There is an acceptance of myself with all my faults and imperfections.  That is not to say that we can’t move our life towards wholesomeness.  We can turn the dharma wheel by our mindful behavior, but where we start, is by accepting life on life’s terms.  We graciously accept our one, precious, very human life and its story.  Through that love, we can proceed.  We can even hold the “no” in a field of “yes”.

I am contemplating this phrase:
“This too, this too, can be included in my heart.”