Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Grace II

Grace II

What is the mysterious silence of zazen that produces grace?  Being touched by timelessness, selflessness, and infinite space can release, from the root of “self-ness”, the knots in our consciousness that we cling to as “our story” and produce our suffering.

If we can stay with our experience of going beyond our concept of self, there is nothing to grab on to.  If we reduce our “thinking” with its concurrent; naming, elaborating and solidifying our ideas of who we are, that letting go or freedom is a type of grace.

Grace is also non-dual in Buddhism.  We can have freedom from that which we do well, and that which we don’t do well.  Both of which continually circle around the mistaken solidification of a self. From a vast view, we can have perspective on our psychological selves which always includes right and wrong, and see ourselves as empty or freed from our boundaries of time and space.  Absorbed in the interconnection of life, we have very little room for the thoughts that particularize us and bring us suffering.  We can, in the end, radically accept who we are. With the right universal perspective, we can let go and forgive, for example. We can see every expression more universally as life itself.  We can see the wave from the perspective of the ocean.

This, for me, is a type of grace that is not willed.  I can practice by setting up the conditions of seeing “total dynamic working” which goes beyond and also includes my “self” but this cannot be forced.  The actual moment of release of my constructed boundaries happens beyond “me”.  It is grace and a very deep relief.

Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing,
There is a field.  I’ll meet you there.

When the soul lies down in that grass,
The world is too full to talk about.
Ideas, language, even the phrase “each other”
Doesn’t make any sense.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Grace in Buddhism

I often search for a long time to find how certain Judeo-Christian terms translate to Buddhism.  When I find a pathway of translation, I’m quite excited.  I have long looked for the translation of “grace” into Buddhism.  This week I heard, while listening to a Norman Fischer talk on “Transformation at the base”, what occurred to me as “grace”.

We know that consciously we can change many things about ourselves.  We can identify our habit patterns, interrupt them and “try” to move ourselves in the direction of freedom from those patterns.  Sometimes we try so very hard, but our habit patterns don’t seem to budge.  They will not transform by our conscious will alone. 

I have worked with the sentence “the more you do a pattern, the more ingrained the pattern becomes, the less you do a pattern, the weaker the pattern becomes”.  It is a pretty simple explanation of Karma (cause and effect) and is a very good practice.  And yet, even with this practice, how do you transform the unconscious roots of that manifestation? 

The change we hope for is different then say, learning medicine or music or other types of conscious lessons with a visible result.  When we try to deeply transform ourselves and our consciousness, it is not entirely done through conscious will.  Conscious transformation is worthwhile and good, but fundamental change happens at the base.

Fundamental transformation is not a conscious doing.  One deeply gives oneself over to a process.  It is not just your acts.  This surrender needs to happen at the base of our life.  Conscious effort works with the manifested seeds but not the latent seeds - the hidden unconscious seeds in the storehouse consciousness.  What we do on the surface of our consciousness, good or bad, manifests in life but our actions also affects or distorts the seeds that are latent in the storehouse consciousness.  This makes certain seeds more easily able to arise the next time if the conditions are ripe.

Norman Fischer puts forth that a deep committed zazen practice can touch this base of transformation beyond our conscious trying to change.  Zazen is more than you can consciously intend.  There is an unknown, dark level of zazen that works in a mysterious way on all levels of our transformation.  It goes beyond our conscious trying.  Thich Nhat Hanh adds that a committed deep practice of mindfulness and practicing with a sangha is the light that transforms us.  When mindfulness shines, it transforms all mental formations.”

I am left with the direction that surrendering to the process of zazen, mindfulness and community is the way to transform myself on the deepest level.  It includes conscious acts but is not limited to consciousness.  Somehow, zazen opens us to a mysterious grace that transforms us at the base.

Monday, January 9, 2012

January Mindfulness - Acceptance of Desire

January 2012 mindfulness practice
Acceptance of desire

Buddha, in the 4 Noble Truths teaching, starts off in its common translation, “Life is suffering.”  However, I think a better translation is “Dissatisfaction is always present in human life.”  This is easily seen by our own experience.  I wake up in the morning and if I follow my dissatisfactions it might go something like this:
•    The alarm clock is too loud and I want to sleep longer.
•    It’s too cold when I come out from the covers.
•    The bathroom is dirty and disorganized.  Where’s the toothpaste?  It’s not where I left it.
•    My clothes aren’t pressed
•    Why doesn’t my son make his own breakfast.
•    I don’t want to go to work or go to meditate.
•    And on and on.  This is only the first hour of my day.

This stream of consciousness led by our misguided self-centered thoughts and our desire for pleasure seems to be constant - the mind of complaint.  This constant desire is the second noble truth and the cause of the first, Suffering.   At any moment, we can dip down into awareness and see our dissatisfactions and our corresponding desires at work.  This cycle produces our suffering and through awareness can be broken up and freed. 

We push away that which we don’t like – aversion.
We attach to that which we want- grasping.

Tara Brach writes, “Relating wisely to the power and pervasive energy of desire is a pathway into unconditional loving.  How are you relating to the presence of desire?  It doesn’t matter what is happening.  What matters is how we relate to our experience.  How do we relate to desire without getting possessed by it and without resisting it?”

This “wanting self” is not personal.   We all want, need, crave, long for.  It is built in to our human predicament. If we can understand the workings of our mind, we can free ourselves of being ruled by self-centered mind and its twisted interpretations.  Being aware of desire, we free ourselves from identifying with it.  Our most common strategies for fulfillment of our desires like achievement, addictive substitutes, money, power, overworking, sensual pleasures etc, will not truly satisfy our dissatisfactions.  We are not satisfied because desires are inherently endless.  With that understood, we can realign our relationship to our cravings and come to a settled, calmer place with things as they are.  We can stay with equanimity or serenity or compassion even in the face of our cravings.

Notice when grasping and aversion arise.  Name them.  Pause and return to body sensation and acceptance of the energy of the moment as it is.  Breathe through the passing emotional landscape.  Notice craving’s impermanence.