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Mark Otter included a nice quote from the excellent Shambhala Buddhist teacher Pema Chödrön in yesterday's edition of the Nondual Highlights (Sun-27-Dec-2009). In this quote, Pema outlines one of her favourite topics and one of the topics on meditation and daily life that I have found the most resonant for me personally in the past weeks and months. Namely, that the world goes on just as it is regardless of whether or not we attach our own judgment to it, so why not just drop the judgment and end the suffering inherent in our wishing that the world was other than how it is in this moment?

Fellow [livejournal.com profile] nonduality reader [livejournal.com profile] confliction took some issue with me about this topic recently and held my feet to the fire about how this concept might actually condone a willful and blissful ignorance towards real suffering that occurs in the world. From the perspective of radical nonduality, this is actually a non-issue: it is purely an academic talking point that doesn't have much bearing from a truly nondual outlook. Having said that, the reason why I keep returning to these themes personally is because I find that they're helpful for me in getting through the stress of my day. Invariably, I find that it's my emotional reactions and self-righteousness that gets me into the most "trouble" when I encounter stressful events in my day. The more that I let go of my expectations of "the way things should be," the more quickly I can get over perceived slights against me or what I perceive as situations that require "fixing;" in this way, I can bring a sort of lightness to apparently negative situations that defuses their negativity really quickly and lets me move on after just a few moments.

In my own personal life, this comes in super helpful in the rearing of my two young toddler boys (their 7-year-old sister is not nearly as challenging as they are in this regard). Unwittingly, my sons are fantastic adepts at pushing my buttons, and whenever I can harbour an attitude of acceptance towards their natural, childish foibles, this helps our relationship immensely. I can cultivate feelings of acceptance towards them for who they are at the age at which they are, instead of getting angry with them for not acting more maturely than their given calendar age. They certainly provide many opportunities each day for me to get frustrated by them throwing toys, fighting over toys, climbing up to the counter to reach breakable items, and all that kind of stuff. But if I deal with them from a position of acceptance instead of wishing that they'd act differently, it really helps my own frustration levels a lot. In short, it serves as a reminder to me that they're just sweet little young people who haven't yet developed a sense of logic or consequence to their actions yet. And who, except someone enmeshed in overly high expectations for a 3-year-old, could take serious issue with that fact?

Even though I've found myself in a myriad of inordinately stressful work situations related to my former profession in IT project management and software development, I can safely say that parenting has thrown up the most intense challenges yet for my own personal and spiritual growth. Some day I'd like to write a book about the lessons I've learned from my kids. (Not that that's ever been done before!)
Then you begin to realize that what's happening is just what's happening. Whether it's outside or what's being triggered in you, it's just what's happening. And all this other stuff is laid on top of it by the thoughts: the good and the bad, and the right and the wrong, and the should and the shouldn't.

So, what Dale [Asrael] said yesterday is, "When you break the identification with the thoughts, suddenly there's space." And I wrote that down because that has been my experience.

That's a hard one, but it's helpful to know it as something that you just know, that when you label thinking and go back to the present moment, being with the breath or the body sensations or sounds, whatever – coming back to the immediacy of your experience – there's the possibility of the very real, that moment has the potential of connecting with space, or opening up the space. Choosing a fresh alternative.

When you don't choose the same old way, the same old stale story line, then there's the opportunity for something new and fresh to present itself to you. The world can open up in an unprecedented way.

– Pema Chödrön
(x-posted here to [livejournal.com profile] nonduality)
iamom: (Default)
I just came across another gem from the winter 2009 issue of Buddhadharma. It's a magazine I used to read frequently but haven't picked up in awhile. This issue keeps drawing me in though, and I've enjoyed lots of the stuff I've read in it so far. The following excerpt, from a Tibetan Dzogchen lineage holder I'd never previously heard of named Geshe Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche, really resonated with me in terms of the struggles I've been having recently with my youngest two kids: boys aged 22 months and 3 years. So often each day I run into situations with them where they seem to be working actively against my expectations for their behaviour, for their safety, or for the safety for our treasured goods in our home. These words made me think about how I could develop more acceptance around situations which rail against my petty expectations.
The moment we experience disruption in our practice or in our life is in fact an opportunity, or doorway, to let go and radically open. What we often do instead is react with aversion, tensing our body and becoming angry. We are trying to maintain continuity of our sense of self, our focus, our agenda. This is the opposite of meditation practice. In our meditation practice we should not have a fixed goal, or idea, or agenda to attain. Rather, our practice should support us in recognizing each moment in its aliveness and in connecting with clear, open awareness. Open awareness is not something we produce, but something we recognize. As we continue to practice meditation, we become increasingly familiar with openness. We discover that openness is the source of all postiive qualities, such as loving-kindness or compassion for another.

Ego is a complication, or obscuration, of this fundamental openness. There is a "me" who is absorbed and now interrupted, a "me" who becomes argumentative with an "other", etc. This back and forth internal dialog, which of course can become external and lead to many unpleasant complications and dramas, can simply be abandoned on the spot if one is willing to experience in a raw and direct way whatever sensations and feelings are present. If we simply feel what we feel -- without judging or elaborating -- the feelings and sensations come, stay for a moment, and then leave on their own. This is a natural process when we don't interfere by engaging our conceptual mind. In this process we can directly observe this "who" that is interrupted.

Naked observation, without commentary or analysis, is very powerful. In the presence of our naked observation, the structure of ego dissolves. It simply cannot remain if we are not feeding it with our conceptual mind. So what begins as a feeling of interruption, insult, or injury, instantly becomes a reminder to observe directly. As we observe, our reaction dissolves, and what remains is openness. And there we can rest, or abide. Even if this is only a glimpse of openness, perhaps lasting for only thirty seconds, it is the foundation upon which to build one's dharma practice. Remember, the space that opens up is the source of all positive qualities, which do not have to be coerced or forced but are naturally and increasingly available as we become more familiar with open awareness. We have so many challenges in life that can become opportunities to let go and open. In this way, irritation itself becomes the doorway to the inner pure space of our natural mind, the mind of all the buddhas.
Now don't get me wrong. What he's describing isn't easy. He's asking us to use apparently negative and frustrating experiences and conflicts in our everyday lives as opportunities to develop pure awareness of our true nature -- in other words, to use conflict as a means towards spiritual practice. But as idealistic as this may sound, I believe it's very sage advice. It's not natural to try and deny the anger or frustration we feel in conflict situations; however, if we can experience it fully, observe it objectively, and then let it move through us without hanging on to it and feeding it with our own petty psychic energy, then those negative feelings will pass pretty quickly and we can move on to the next situation in life.

God knows this is what most young kids do. Despite the frequent blow-ups that my 3-year-old has over a toy not working the way he wants it to or his little brother taking something away from him, within literally seconds he's usually moved on to a different activity and the conflict he just had is apparently erased from his memory. Little kids live inherently in the present moment, they let their emotions run wild, but they also let their emotions burn out as quickly as they came on if you give them the space to do so. More and more, I find these conflict scenarios in childrearing to be fertile learning experiences for my own spiritual awakening.

Even though they really piss me off sometimes.
iamom: (zoesad)
My childhood featured a certain amount of physical and emotional violence. By the time I reached my early teens, I started to make resolutions to myself about the kind of parent I would be when I had kids. I'd never hit my kids. I'd never strike at them in anger. I wouldn't ever mete out punishment for their behaviour in the form of physical pain. I'd always watch my children and listen carefully to what they had to say. I'd always want them to feel that they were important, that their thoughts and dreams were worthwhile, and that they'd have my unflagging support for as long as I lived.

But despite these high ideals, I can't admit to giving my children a completely non-violent upbringing so far. I've lost my temper lots of times, especially with our first one. I've never hit them in anger or otherwise, but I have blown up, sometimes at them directly, with a lot of yelling and maybe a smacking of the nearest table or doorjamb or something. I've vented more than my share of hot air in this way, and I'm sure that it's terribly unpleasant for little ones at the time.

I've also given my wife criticism for inconsequential things around the house: for the type of wooden spoon she uses to cook her morning eggs; for her timing of when she starts the laundry; for her lack of restraining Max from emptying the contents of the Tupperware drawer onto the floor for the 900th time. None of these things is important, but I find myself drawn to correct her about them a lot. For some reason, I think I'm the perfect judge.

Just for a sense of context, I'll soon be interviewing someone for the Nonduality Highlights Podcast who lost her daughter to cancer at the age of 7 and recently lost her husband to it also. She and her husband barely got a chance to try out their parenting with that poor little girl. It's a testament to their strength of character that they even stayed together after that.


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Dustin LindenSmith

January 2013

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