Saturday, August 25, 2012

Brilliant bright sun today. Reading Stephen Batchelor's book, "Buddhism without Beliefs". Beyond how-to books about meditation, he deconstructs religion as a system of followers who subscribe to 'experts' who prescribe exercises; how to breathe, how to reorganize thoughts (on the way to extinguishing them), how to chant properly, etc. Including Buddhism. I've reached a crossroads in my practice and I'm seriously questioning the various ways I've practiced over these 16 years. Sitting practice is important for me. What is more compelling is the ways I move toward or more away from pleasant experiences and painful ones.

What is meditation? What is it for? These last few weeks have been intensely painful. Rather than shrinking from what hurts, I've moved toward the pain; to investigate it and examine it. Does it have inherent worth? What can I learn? And I've been approached by others for comfort, how do I respond?

Pain can help us open. Or it can shut us down. Acknowledging my broken heart in the face of loss and feeling the sadness and grief of us all seems to be my daily work. And noticing the systole and diastole of emotion, noticing the moments of insight as well as the utter cruelty inherent in our lives here brings me to a kind of peace. It is what it is. Equanimity or Upekka in the Pali language. Being able to be with ourselves in the face of our overwhelming sorrow. Or joy. Or love.

It's not about transcendence. It is about immersion without hooks. Like waves in the ocean.

Courage, dear pilgrims.


Ms. Moon said...

Didn't Ina May say that when your heart breaks it lets more love in? Or something like that.
I am pondering your words. I am agreeing with them. I am wishing I had the strength to practice them.

beth coyote said...

Ina May-yep, probably.

Sabine said...

During my pregnancy someone somewhere wrote this on a piece of paper for me in preparation of labour (it's from the I Ching I believe):
Rain after all is only rain and not bad weather, so pain is only pain, unless you resist it, then it becomes torment.

As for the "prescribed" exercises: I always fail to follow through and instead prefer monotonous repetitive exercises like cycling along some neverending track through boring fields until my breath is all I can hear in my ears. Or cleaining windows, ironing sheets...