"Mindfulness and Meditation allow us to open our hearts, relax our bodies, and clear our minds enough to experience the vast, mysterious, sacred reality of life directly. With Practice we come to know for ourselves that eternity is available in each moment.

Your MMM Courtesy Wake Up Call:
Musings on Life and Practice
by a Longtime Student of Meditation

Thursday, January 12, 2023

What Were You Expecting?

“The most fundamental aggression to ourselves, the most fundamental harm we can do to ourselves, is to remain ignorant by not having the courage 
and the respect to look at ourselves honestly and gently.”
Pema Chödrön

"Meditation is not a matter of trying to achieve ecstasy, 
spiritual bliss, or tranquility, nor is it attempting to be a better person. 
It is simply the creation of a space in which 
we are able to expose and undo our neurotic games,
our self-deceptions, our hidden fears and hopes. "
― Chögyam Trungpa  

I guess I've always been a bookworm.  

Although I also loved riding my bicycle, wandering through fields, and playing baseball as a kid, I read -- a lot.  

One summer in Chicago, as often as I could, I would climb up on the flat roof of a garage in the alley behind the three-flat we lived in at the time, with a book in hand.
Looking back, I think Huckleberry Finn was my favorite.   In the midst of a troubling and chaotic childhood, Mark Twain invited me to join Huck in his journey.  I spent days on my rooftop raft floating down the Mississippi River -- far away from the unsettling realities of my life.
Nowadays, there is still usually a stack of books close at hand.  Yet, for decades now, I haven't read much fiction.  For entertainment and a bit of escapist relaxation, a good movie or television series works for me.  I appreciate the absorption of my attention into the artistry involved -- although, even then, I try to choose films that open my heart and relax me rather than feed my fears or jar my senses and sensibilities.   
My choice of books is also intentional.  Most of what I read has to do with meditation, mysticism, and spirituality.  Pouring through these books isn't jumping on a raft to escape the realities of my life.  I'm placing my attention on information that supports my commitment to face Reality, in all its dimensions, with greater wisdom and compassion. 

Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism is a book that has worked its way to the top of my stack again and again.  Each time, I find myself marveling at the depth of insight presented -- and the new layers of understanding that seem to emerge with each reading.  I imagine that decades of almost daily meditation Practice, hundreds of other books, and handfuls of intensive retreats may have helped as well.  😉
In Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism,  Tibetan Buddhist teacher, Chögyam Trungpa, is gently and persistently direct in his effort to tell it like it is.  To a western audience prone to grasp onto the teachings of Buddhism as yet another object of ego gratification, he proclaims, unabashedly, "Enlightenment is the ego's ultimate disappointment."  I imagine that as Mindfulness Practice continues to be commercialized within the capitalism of today's world, the marketing experts will continue to discourage highlighting this quotation on the book jacket. 

Yet, in his own inimitable style, Trungpa gets down to the heart of the matter, the gist of the Practice.  As he does in other talks that have been transcribed and edited into book form, Trungpa is able to translate the traditional teachings into terms that are recognizable as "mental states,"  various qualities of consciousness that we can actually experience in meditation.

It seems that many of us can readily "get" the Buddha's First Noble Truth, that life entails suffering.  Yet, the Second (there is a cause for suffering) and Third Truth's (there is a release from suffering) are a bit trickier to see for ourselves.   

Yet, as we spend time in meditation observing the workings of our own mind, we come to a clearer awareness of the many ways that we continually create our world from our own personal cluster of hopes and fears, our own grasping at and pushing away from life as it is in each moment.  At the deepest levels of our subconscious mind, the "optical delusion of consciousness" that Albert Einstein realized causes us to experience ourselves as separate from the rest of the universe, dominates our experience. 

In that light, Trungpa  considers the experience of personal disappointment to be a good thing, calling it "the best chariot to use on the path of Dharma."  He points out that the experience of disappointment, when fearlessly and deeply explored, is an excellent opportunity to see the workings of our own ego-clinging in action.  Seeing that, we can respond from our deepest, heartfelt intentions rather than react automatically, again and again, to the events of our life.  

It can be as simple as that.


What were you expecting?

With a bow and a grin,


Dharma Bum69b said...

Brother, there is A LOT i can identify with in here! Stuff i've been researching and working on since my hippy days. "Spiritual Materialism" is one of the reasons that i shut down and reorganized the priorities of 'The Way" on MeWe. That and all the wacko mumbo-jumbos were taking over.

Thank you for sharing your insights Lance - NAMASTE

Anonymous said...

This is so pertinent to what I’m working on! Disappointment, disillusionment, and wanting things to be different from the way they are. Chronically ill people are the lucky ones who truly appreciate their good days, IMHO, so much more than folks who have never suffered from the restrictions that it puts upon us! Or so I keep telling myself.

Lance Smith said...

Hey Terry! I replied to your comment at The Way on MeWe!

And Anonymous: I do think that there are some folks that appear to "cruise" through their lives that will just take things for granted and lose touch with a deeper sense of gratitude and wonder.

Looking at the word dis-illusion-ment: Seeing past the illusion is a good thing, right? Once I'm able to come into the moment, Reality is pretty darn Awesome much of the time! (Which Anonymous are you? LOL)