This is My Real Life

August 15, 2009

Being Zen
Although I can try to push away my experience, the fact remains that whatever is happening right now is my genuine life. Like it or not, want it or not, this life is what is. To embrace it rather than push it away is the key to freedom. ~Ezra Bayda, from Being Zen

What a treasure this book is! Bayda helps us understand how practice can help us become free of the constriction of fear, awaken compassion, and “learn to be at home, even in the midst of the muddy water of our lives.” His prose is so clear and practical that I would not presume to paraphrase.

“The key to practice,” he says, “is not to try to change our life but to change our relationships to our expectations–to learn to see whatever is happening as our path. Our difficulties are not obstacles to the path, they are the path itself.”

“What we need is a gradual yet fundamental change in our orientation to life–toward a willingness to see, to learn, to just be with whatever we meet…To simply be with our experience–even with the heaviness and darkness that surround our suffering–engenders a sense of lightness and heart.” Learning to approach pain and suffering with “…a certain lightness of heart…is what transforms and softens our will–as ego, as striving, as struggle–into willingness.” (I love this idea…see more on will here.)

Bayda offers a lovely meditation consisting of four-line rounds that repeat several times, moving from self to others to all beings. He distinguishes this from affirmations, which he says are “like mental injections we use to change or cover over our feelings.” (I couldn’t agree more–see Positivity). “This practice is the opposite: it is not about changing or covering over our feelings, it is about experiencing whatever is present.” It focuses on the physical awareness of the heartspace, and so is not simply a mental exercise.

As Bayda’s teacher, Charlotte Joko Beck, says in her introduction, “Even though all reading is preliminary, it is a crucial first step.” Now to practice!

From the Archives: June

May 29, 2009

I’m not afraid of storms for I’m learning how to sail my ship. ~Louisa May Alcott

As I review last June’s posts, I am struck by how few there are (five) compared to other months. And this month, only four. Hmmm, maybe this is the “off-season” for blogging for me! I do want to spend more time outside for sure. But here are three of my teachers from last year.

The Case Against Will helps me remember that only what I want to do, I will do. No “should-ing” will help me get there.

Graces enumerates a few of my abundant blessings, from The Shambhala Sun to music.

Attention! is another of my frequent reminders to myself not to squander my life away, but to be fully present for its unfolding.

What have you learned lately?

Pushing the Rope

September 7, 2008

The Sun Never Says
All this time,
The sun never says to the earth,
“You owe
What happens
With a love like that,
It lights the
Whole sky.

Dang! I am pushing the rope again.* Making life harder than it has to be. I need to remember that this day, my life, the universe will be what it is. I am not in control, nor am I owed anything. I can radiate love and light only when I am shining from my center, and not by willing myself to do so. On rereading a previous post (The Case Against Will), I am resolved to spend the day “moodling” in dreamy idleness.

Learning is hard! When the same lesson comes around again and again (there’s that spiral again), it must be important, eh? Today I am reminded to cease struggling and to listen for clarity.

*a concept described by Sarah Susanka in The Not So Big Life

The Case Against Will

June 1, 2008

When you will, make a resolution, set your jaw, you are expressing an imaginative fear that you won’t do the thing. If you knew you would do the thing, you would smile happily and set about it. 

So you see, the imagination needs moodling–long, inefficient, happy idling, dawdling and puttering.  ~Brenda Ueland, from If You Want to Write (Graywolf Press, 2007)

It is easy to see why Ueland’s work is a classic and hard to believe I have not read it until now. I know already that it will be one of those I will want to reread every couple of years, as I do other books of distilled wisdom (Rilke’s Letters to a Young Poet, for example).

As one who has struggled for years to will self-care, I could not agree more with Ueland’s case against will. The harder I try to force myself to eat right and exercise more, the fiercer the rebellious resistance becomes. (If I knew I would do it, I would just smile happily and set about it!) She shares what I find to be an interesting insight: “People who try to boss themselves always want (however kindly) to boss other people. They always think they know best and are so stern and resolute about it they are not very open to new and better ideas.” (God forbid.) Describing herself as “a fearful self-disciplinarian” who has learned a better way, she promotes “dreamy idleness” as a way of quietly letting in imaginative thoughts. 

The best news is that Ueland’s “moodling” is (for the most part) simply being in the present moment! She says, “…when I walk in a carefree way, without straining to get to my destination, then I am living in the present. And it is only then that the creative power flourishes.” She tells us that “…it is the way you are to feel when you are writing–happy, truthful, and free, with that wonderful contented absorption of a child stringing beads in kindergarten.”

P. S. Did Ueland coin the word “moodling?” Merriam-Webster does not know it.


February 17, 2008

We’re swallowed up only when we are willing for it to happen.  ~Nathalie Sarraute

A number of forces combined yesterday to overwhelm my best intentions. As my last few posts have attested, I have been immersed over the past few days in the work of Eckhart Tolle on the power of living in the present. Yesterday, it felt as though my ego, or will, was so threatened by the prospect of  annihilation (through living in the now, surrender to what is) that it reared up and demanded my attention. It is a greedy beast! 

Though I tried to be the “watcher” in the throes of this experience, as Tolle recommends, I was unsuccessful at taming the unruly will.  My mindfulness muscles are not yet strong enough, perhaps. Today I hope to practice that mindful presence and surrender as I go about my day.

Do you have a practice that helps keep you mindful, that connects you with all that is, or that helps you avoid being “swallowed up?”

Creativity and Will

November 11, 2007

Refusal to be creative is self-will and is counter to our true nature.  ~Julia Cameron

Wow. Refusal to be creative. An act of self-will. Is this different from Nachmanovitch’s take that our task is to unblock the obstacles to creativity’s natural flow? I suppose self-will is one of those obstacles. It is empowering, though, to see it as an act of self-will and not unseen forces acting on us. And how does that fit with the egolessness of Buddhism? If I can truly accept the dissolution of the self, will creativity resume its natural flow? I think so.

What did the Buddhist monk say to the hot dog vendor? “Make me one with everything.” 🙂