Saturday, July 25, 2009

A Little Boy Grows Up

I have someone in my life, a child, who I love dearly. He's like a nephew, not a real blood relation, but I lived in the upstairs apartment of the house he grew up in, and I am friends with his parents.

I held him in my arms when he was three days old -- a day I'll never forget. For years, this kid was my world. But now, he's growing up -- 14 years old, and obsessed with friends. He has little time for me anymore, but is always polite and loving, and his heart is golden.

I mourn the loss of our relationship as it was, when he would call me on the phone and ask me to watch TV with him or take him to get ice cream. I'm afraid I've been dwelling on this loss, too much.

But tonight, I took him for a hamburger, and then we went to see a movie. And after dropping him off, even though there was a bit of sadness in my heart for what was, I silently thanked God that we could still have a relationship -- in a different form.

I realize that this is a lesson -- that all things are impermanent and change. If I am brave and embrace the change, perhaps I can grow and who knows where that will lead. Future rewards, more lessons, wisdom?

I think this has taught me, too, to feel more compassion for people facing loss, great or small.

May all of us facing change be brave and accept it and know that all is well.

Friday, March 27, 2009

More is Never Enough

The blurb below is from a teaching by Thubten Chodron, from a book called "Tara the Liberator." I find a chord of truth in it.

I often find myself thinking, "Now, if I only had more clients and projects I'd be set." Or, I may think, "if the sun would only come out, I'd feel better, I'm sure."

And then things will come to pass, as I'd hoped. Suddenly I'll get busier, but then I worry about meeting deadlines...or what will (or will not) come in the way of work once my present assignment is over. And, even on the sunniest, warmest days, I've felt unhappy.

I think the true way to happiness, or at least equanimity, is to accept all things as they are in the moment. That's not an easy task, but experience tells me that it gets easier with practice.

More is Never Enough
It's easy to think we're generous and magnanimous people when we're sitting here reading. We think, "I'm not attached. I'd be happy to share whatever I have with others. But should somebody ask us, "May I have the food in your cupboards?" We would probably respond, "No! Why should I give it to you?" Or if somebody took our shoes that we left outside the meditation hall, we would be upset. "Who took my shoes? How dare they! I want them back!"
Fear often lies beneath our excuses. We falsely believe that possessions will bring us security in cyclic existence. In fact, our attachment to them keeps us bound in a prison of dissatisfaction. We constantly crave more and better, yet are never satisfied with what we have.
–Thubten Chodron, from Tara the Liberator (Snow Lion Publications)

Read this Daily Dharma on

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Getting Angry

March 25, 2009
Tricycle's Daily Dharma
One Reason We Get Angry
The trigger for much of our anger is frustrated expectation. We sometimes invest so much of ourselves in a project that when it doesn’t turn out as it should we become irate. All ‘shoulds’ point to an expectation, a prediction for the future. We might have realized by now that the future is uncertain, unpredictable. Relying too much on an expectation for the future, a ‘should’, is asking for trouble.
–Ajahn Brahm, from Opening the Door of your Heart (Lothian Books)
Read this Daily Dharma on

Monday, March 23, 2009

Attachment to a Friend

Being attached to something or someone feels good at times. But I've discovered that attachment is also very dangerous.

I have a friend who has just come to me with some news about an old love she's reconnecting with from afar -- by phone and mail. They will meet later in the year, and he plans to stay with her for several months.

When she told me about it, I feigned happiness for her. But inside, my gut honest reaction was one of fear. I know why. I am afraid of losing her attention and attachment to me.

Worse, I feel terrible for feeling this way. I also looked forward to seeing her on the weekends, and she'd spend time at my house at the holidays. And I have noticed that she has stopped visiting often.

The source of my anxiety is being left alone.

But maybe I'm reading too much into this. Is my fear of being left alone...of being lonely...real?

While I do feel lonely at times, it is not an eternal, or unchanging state. The Buddhist concept of emptiness says that nothing is inherently real on its own. I am not alone -- in truth. I have some good friends and a wonderful family of brothers, sisters and nieces and nephews. So my fear of loneliness is without solid substance.

So, if my conception of being alone is so frightening; then perhaps I can change my attitude about this, I can make new friends, expand my world a bit. I can build positive states of mind and situations to sustain me.

But still...we are human...and we develop attachments. I am attached to the idea of "always" having my friend around to keep me company. This is understandable, but not realistic.

Things change. Life changes. People move away and die.

Acceptance of this will help. And of course, I'll have to meditate on letting go.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Your Opinions are the Problem

March 16, 2009
From Tricycle's Daily Dharma

Nan-in, a Japanese master during the Meiji era (1868-1912), received a university professor who came to inquire about Zen.

Nan-in served tea. He poured his visitor’s cup full, and then kept on pouring.

The professor watched the overflow until he could no longer restrain himself. “It is overfull. No more will go in!”

“Like this cup,” Nan-in said, “you are full of your own opinions and speculations. How can I show you Zen unless you first empty your cup?”

–From Zen Flesh, Zen Bones, compiled by Paul Reps and Nyogen Senzaki (Tuttle)

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Letting Go

These days, it's tough to let go.

It's hard to let go of the fear and uncertainty about the future.

As a self-employed writer, at any given moment, I'm thinking about the future of my career, if and when more freelance assignments will start coming my way. I'm thinking about whether tomorrow the phone will ring, and whether it will finally be an offer of work from one of the countless prospects I've been courting for months and months. Will the lunches, dinners, emails, phone pitches, etc., pay off?

It's particularly bad on days when I don't have much to do...or days when the bank balance has chipped way down to cover just a few mortgage payments, and payment for work that I've long completed hasn't yet arrived.

But perhaps this isn't all there is to my fear. Perhaps it's not just fear of unemployment or poverty or losing my house that is so terrifying. Perhaps it's a greater fear. Perhaps my angst is about what will be left of "me," this person who I think I am, if all these distractions, these outside influences, fall away.

Perhaps it's the fear of confronting me.

But this is where I can draw comfort from Buddhist teachings. They say that I am mistaken to believe in a "me." In fact, this collection of feelings and emotions and experiences that I've packaged into an image of "me" isn't solid. I'm not really who I think I am because all that is inside and outside of my body is ever-changing. There is no permanent substance to me or you -- and so it naturally fits that there is nothing to hold onto.

And yet my body, what I have learned through living in this world, prevents me from letting go.

But I want to. I have read many books by learned Buddhist monks and teachers who talk about the freeing aspect of meditation and contemplating the process of letting go, that is, simply being with your feelings and experiences in the present moment.

It all makes perfect sense, and I have at times actually felt glimmers of this freedom during and after meditating. This is our natural state, they say, and fear and worry and living in the past or future is a condition that we have learned from this world.

At some point, I'll have to let go -- no matter what happens. In the meantime, I'll practice. Perhaps practicing is the only thing I shouldn't let go of.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Meditation Tames the Untamed Mind

This great little story is a good metaphor for taming the untamed mind -- through meditation.

What was wild before

As I left my daytime resting place on Vulture Peak,
I saw an elephant
come up on the riverbank after its bath.

A man took a hook and said to the elephant,
Give me your foot.
The elephant stretched out its foot;
the man mounted.

Seeing what was wild before
gone tame under human hands,
I went into the forest
and concentrated my mind.

- Dantika, in Susan Murcotts The First Buddhist Women
from Everyday Mind, edited by Jean Smith, a Tricycle book