Become a living question for Halloween!

 

 

I’m adding this to my Favorite Quotes page here on my blog:

 

 

 

The most important part of the practice is for the question to remain alive and for your whole body and mind to become a question. In Zen they say that you have to ask with the pores of your skin and the marrow of your bones. A Zen saying points out: Great questioning, great awakening; little questioning, little awakening; no questioning, no awakening. ~ Martine Batchelor (from Tricycle Daily Dharma)

 

Try this: Sit in an upright posture. Chair, zafu, floor, doesn’t matter. Spine straight but not rigid. Breathe. Get yourself centered.

 

Zafu. Roma

Zafu. Roma (Photo credit: Roberto Poveda)

 

Ask yourself this question:

 

 

 

Who am I?

 

Ask very slowly and don’t expect an answer, but really, really listen.

 

 

 

What do you notice?

 

 

 

Positive and negative emotions and enlightenment

Came across this quote today from Adyashanti.

It is important that we know what awakening is not, so that we no longer chase the by-products of awakening. We must give up the pursuit of positive emotional states through spiritual practice. The path of awakening is not about positive emotions. On the contrary, enlightenment may not be easy or positive at all. ~ Adyashanti, “

Over the last year or so, I have been slowly coming around to this point of view.

The bliss and joy that meditators can experience are seductive. It’s easy to believe that this is what you should feel, that this is the goal of meditation, to feel good, to feel love, joy, and bliss. It’s easy to desire — and become attached to — positive emotional states.

That’s identification.

We can use EFT to tap away negative emotions, believing them undesirable, wanting them to go away. Yet we experience them. They are part of “life as it is.”

Rather than putting so much energy into avoiding them, I am at the point (most of the time) where I am willing to experience and explore them — the feeling component in my body, the mental component of the story I tell myself, and what’s true.

If emotional states only last a couple of minutes at most, I think I can bear that. Avoiding them gives them power. Allowing them to exist just lets them be what they are, transient conditions of being human and having a nervous system, seeking to make meaning out of what we experience.

That’s disidentification.

I notice I am tempted to add that while I am willing to experience negative emotions and explore them, please, I don’t want too many!

I say feel emotional states when they arise, and notice that they too are transitory. Without a story, what happens?

Pema Chodron advises:

When you refrain from habitual thoughts and behavior, the uncomfortable feelings will still be there. They don’t magically disappear. Over the years, I’ve come to call resting with the discomfort “the detox period,” because when you don’t act on your habitual patterns, it’s like giving up an addiction. You’re left with the feelings you were trying to escape. The practice is to make a wholehearted relationship with that.

Bliss, discomfort, part of the path of accepting what is. 

Lessons from the 21-day Byron Katie challenge

The challenge to focus on The Work of Byron Katie for 21 days was worthwhile. I examined a painful thought that has been a thread running through my life, that my father didn’t care about me.

I subjected that belief to inquiry, and it did not hold up. My father did care about me. I know that deeply now. The way he chose to express it — nonverbally, without physical, verbal, or visual signs of affection, without playfulness, and pretty much without much eye contact or much facial expression at all — was not a way I understood or valued when I was young and first had this thought.

I realize now that he showed his caring by simply being there with his family and not somewhere else, supporting me from infancy through adulthood, reading aloud to his children, helping with homework, and creating order through daily rituals (dinner time, bath time, bed time). He wasn’t really that different from many men who were fathers in the 1950s and 1960s — who had been through sobering times (the Great Depression and World War II). He was not frivolous, not expressive, and a man who had lost his own father at age 9.

I took him for granted.

I did this challenge a bit differently than I initially envisioned doing it. I had thought that I would do one worksheet a day, answering the four questions and doing the turnarounds for 21 days.

That would have been extremely time-consuming. My blog posts would have been quite lengthy, and I fear you, dear readers, might have completely lost patience and interest.

So instead, I worked on one issue, my relationship with my dad, which even though he’s been dead for years, I still felt some tender sensitivity and pain about. I liked doing it slowly and deeply like this. Sometimes at Katie’s workshops, there just isn’t time to really go deep with my own stuff. This was satisfying and memorable. I feel like I got the process in my bones and now find myself asking, “Is that true?” and “What happens when I believe that thought?” Just noticing…

I have turned over that rock and examined the ground under it, the creepy-crawlies, the shadow, took a good thorough look, and then put the rock back and moved on.

Of course there are more rocks to investigate, but I can see that each time I do inquiry, the remaining rocks are perhaps fewer, lighter, and smaller.

And wow. Would I ever like to get to the bottom of how I create my own suffering with my thinking! That would require a lot of discernment. Speaking of which, this great quote on that topic came up today on Tricycle Daily Dharma:

The fundamental aim of Buddhist practice is not belief; it’s enlightenment, the awakening that takes place when illusion has been overcome. It may sound simple, but it’s probably the most difficult thing of all to achieve. It isn’t some kind of magical reward that someone can give you or that a strong belief will enable you to acquire. The true path to awakening is genuine discernment; it’s the very opposite of belief. ~ Trinlay Tulku Rinpoche, “The Seeds of Life”

So yeah. Enlightenment comes through examining illusion, that is, using inquiry and discerning the truth. This is how it works in real life.

In filling out the worksheet, I went back to the last years I lived at home, when I was in high school, and how it was then between my father and me. I remembered yearning for his positive personal attention, and it never even crossing my mind to just ask him for it! Because “we didn’t do that in our family,” it wasn’t even in my realm of possibilities back then.

I am so grateful to have busted out of that prison. I’m not sure when that happened.  At some point, I gained the quality of brashness. It usually works, too.

I think it’s a great idea for people to ask for attention when you need it. If the person who is asked can give it, fine, and if not, fine. There are always others, and of course, there’s the self. Doing The Work is a fine way to relate to the self. Quality time.

My relationship with my father, which transcends his death, has expanded. It’s become lighter and broader. I can consider other possibilities for his behavior than the narrow, joyless ones I laid on him.

This opens me up too. My hurting self, the wounded child, has healed (at least about this topic). It’s a memory now, in the past.

After having done the work, it doesn’t matter whether my father did or didn’t have Asperger’s Syndrome. That’s only a concept, just a theory to explain his behavior.

When I ask, “How do I react, what happens, when I think that thought?” I realize that it just doesn’t matter that much to me. I wonder more how he would have reacted had he known, fully aware that whatever I think is idle speculation, just opinion. It was his business, not mine.

I like to think that if he wanted help with it, which he never asked for, I would have gladly been willing to give it.

Just like he would have been glad to give me more attention, if I had asked for it.

People are like that, aren’t we.

Free screening of Meetings with Remarkable Men: a film about Gurdjieff

My weekly book group, the Austin Redfin Group, just recently up and named itself and decided to host a public event!

We’ve been reading books about “The Work” of G.I. Gurdjieff, a famous Russian mystic and spiritual teacher. Right now we’re reading The Reality of Being: The Fourth Way of Gurdjieff, by Jeanne de Salzmann, his closest follower, whose notes on his teachings were just published in 2010, even though Gurdjieff died in 1949. I find her writing very clear and accessible.

We’ve also read books by E.J. Gold, author of the American Book of the Dead and many books in the Gurdjieffian Fourth Way tradition.

We’re hosting a viewing of the 1979 film Meetings with Remarkable Men, based on one of Gurdjieff’s books of the same name. The film covers his adventurous search for truth, his initiation into the mysterious Sarmoung Brotherhood, and a demonstration of the movements and sacred dances that later became part of The Work.

Filmed on location in Afghanistan, the movie tells a story of the universal search for the truth and meaning of life and the desire to awaken and realize oneself.

The screening is at Casa de Luz, Serena Room, 1701 Toomey Rd., on Tuesday, July 24, 2012, from 7-9ish pm.

If you are or have been a seeker after truth, you might really enjoy seeing this film. Please consider yourself invited to attend.