mean that the capacity to love and accept
is not there; love is always with you.”
Once you hitch your wagon to Practice and roll out, you are going to get the lessons along the way that are needed to take you deeper --whether you like it or not! This might be especially true if you have the unbridled chutzpah to publicly ramble on about your experiences.
More than once, I've spent time here presenting the notion that simply "cutting loose of the storyline," choosing to refocus our attention from discursive thought to other aspects of our experience (preferably what we are feeling in our bodies and heart), can sometimes take us from hell to heaven in the blink of an eye. (See Your Courtesy Wake Up Call: Once Upon a Time...)
Although I certainly have experienced this quite often, perhaps a bit of Karmic Comeuppance was necessary to burn my tail -- and, hopefully, burnish my humility and compassion a bit. During the last past week, Life interjected a pretty dramatic bout of upset apple carts and broohahas into the Grand Mix. It's been enough to remind me that it certainly can take a bit longer than a "blink of an eye" to regain a sense of wonder about it all.
It may even take what may seem like a hell of a long time.
The lesson? Being a calm and kind, clear and compassionate, human being is NOT that easy. It is a daunting discipline. It takes commitment, courage, patience, skill, time and effort. It takes Practice.
Then and Now
As a child and a young man I had what folks might call an extremely bad temper. Having grown up in the midst of a lot of anger, I would react to things in my world with bursts of violent emotions -- and even physical violence. My kid brother and I fought like the proverbial cats and dogs.
Even into young adulthood, I could fly into a rage and smash things and strike out with the worst of them. Hanging out with my college jock peers didn't help matters. Luckily, a lightweight at only 5'2", throwing my weight around wasn't all that successful. It was usually a kamikazi mission, so I learned a little to cool it a bit. Suppression, however, didn't really work. I still could get really angry all too easily.
Perhaps, the deepest gratitude that I have to the Practice is that I no longer am likely to get all that angry, no longer prone to lash out verbally or physically. Annoyance and mild irritation usually is about as bad as it gets these days. I'm grateful that it usually doesn't spill out of my mouth without immediate recognition.
Yet, life being life, usually doesn't mean never. Recently, I hit a deep pool of anger for the first time in quite awhile.
I was angry. Really angry. If I would have acted out the energy coursing through my body, it would not have been a pretty picture. Instead, I paused, then withdrew.
I soon found out that merely cutting loose of the story lines wasn't going to dispel the emotional energy. Although it certainly helped to repeatedly allow the story lines to go their merry way without attaching much attention to them, the cauldron of emotional energy seethed on. I discovered that this would call for some patience, the willingness and ability to make some time and space to allow the anger to run its course embraced by as much mindfulness and heart as I could manage. As it was, it took me a couple of hours in the evening, then a couple more in the early morning to bring myself to the point where I felt safe to re-engage with my life in a clearer and kinder way.
During that time, both Shamatha/Vipashyana and Tonglen practice helped. I was able to feel and examine the nature of the patterns involved in that anger, to feel it in my body, to stay with it rather than withdraw. It wasn't a "quick fix,"though. I had to breath fire for awhile.
Yet, over time, in the clear, kind eyes of Mindfulness, staying with the bodily sensations and feelings in my heart, the anger began to morph into bursts of fear, pain, and sadness. Then, at a certain point, the tears emerged.
I felt my heart open again.
At that point, grief and gratitude were indistinguishable. We are each Bozo and Buddha. The incredible beauty of our fragile majesty as interconnected human beings immersed in this boundless and mysterious Universe was, once again, self-evident. It takes One to know One. Whether you conceptualize this Boundless Presence as God or Shunyata or Allah or Tao (or, as I do these days, One Love), IMHO, it's the Real Deal. It's our True Nature.
Working with Anger: Two Good Articles
The Lion's Roar (formerly Shambala Sun), a magazine which offers a "Buddhist view for people of all spiritual traditions who are open, inquisitive, passionate and committed" has two articles available on-line that offer ways to look at and work with anger (and the whole continuum of aversion). "The Answer to Anger and Aggression is Patience" by Pema Chodron and "Loosening the Knots of Anger" by Thich Nhat Hanh. Even if anger "isn't your thing", you may find them helpful in exploring other powerful energies.
I am so grateful to the Teachers and the Teachings that have given me at least a clue about how to work with all this. I'm grateful that Life itself provides the ongoing possibility of Opening our Hearts and Minds, for the Love, Forgiveness, and Good Will that resides in our True Nature.
Sitting here at age 73, having been fortunate enough to stumble across these Teachings decades ago, I can say from my own experience. We can move beyond our conditioned patterns. We are the people we are waiting for. Our True Nature is Love.
It just takes Practice.
Originally published, July 2013.