Faith

The only lack of faith I have is in myself. Mindfulness makes it easier to see exactly where I am, and what is going on. Still, it doesn’t always provide me with the answers I need to adjust the way I do things. How does one shift to a healthier, saner way of being? I’m sure I’ll figure it out. Time to find my cushion, methinks….

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Finished

About a week ago, I finally finished Thây Hanh’s The Heart of the Buddha’s Teaching. This is a tremendously useful read – I really think that this is definitely one time that the book lives up to the title.

When I was a kid I taught myself how to speed read – a tremendously useful skill, if you can keep your retention level up (I’m still at about 98%, thank goodness.). However, this is not a book that can be read trivially. I read this one SOOO slowly and carefully, going back over passages frequently.

I don’t know that this is the first book I’d give someone who expresses an interest in Buddhism to me, but it would be the first one I’d recommend to someone I knew to be *seriously* interested.

Friday Fun

From “a radio broadcast of Lama Zopa Rinpoche speaking to the Mongolian people.

“Before the broadcast started, Venerable Sarah Thresher asked Rinpoche why Mongolia needed Buddhism. Rinpoche’s inimitable response contains the entire path to enlightenment and is certain to lift the spirits of everyone who hears it!”

Hurrah!

Last night I went for my first Dharma Study, though it was a bit of a drive – I had to haul my cookies all the way to Gulf Breeze (just outside of Pensacola) to visit Palyul Changchub Choling. They’re “… a sangha or group who study and practice Tibetan Buddhism in the Nyingma tradition according to the Palyul nam-cho practices.[Links are mine]”

I doubt I can go every week right now (2 hrs in a car with $3 gas), but they’re such a great group, and I can do preliminary practices (Ngondro) with them and take refuge the next time the lama comes. I’ve thought about it, and I think Tibetan Buddhism is the best place for me to start right now, although I have a great deal of respect for the teachings of Thich Nhat Hanh. Going to the study group last night felt so right – I was comfortable with the meditation session and the dharma discussion – I felt at home in the material and even felt like I had something to contribute to the discussion. (For what it’s worth, they were discussing What Makes You Not a Buddhist by Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse. I don’t have it, but it seems like an interesting read, if slim. Maybe once I’ve caught up on my other Dharma reading….Apparently, this is a much lighter/easier work than their last selection, which was a book on Dzogchen.)

Perhaps soon I can go back, and maybe I’ll even remember to bring my camera. ^_^

The Quote I’m Chewing On, Currently:

When starting to practice, be eager like a deer
trapped in a pen seeking to get out.
In the middle be like a farmer during harvest
not waiting for anything.
In the end be like a shepherd who has
brought the flock home.
Paltrul Rinpoche‘s Sacred Word

I wish I understood precisely what he was saying. I guess having the context of the entire work would be nice, but I found it isolated in a dharma book I’m reading right now. So I guess I’ll have to just think about it.

Sitting

So, my meditation practice has been skittering all over the place lately.

It’s not that I’m not sitting – I am. My lovely husband pointed out to me that if I was going to become Buddhist and live a Buddhist life I had absolutely no excuse for not establishing a meditation practice. Since that day I’ve made a point to try and sit everyday. I missed one day – and then decided I liked life better with a little bit of daily “sitting.”

I’ve meditated off and on for many years of my life. Never with any formal education, mind you. The closest I came to that is the guided meditation at the end of my yoga classes, and that’s simply not the same thing as a thoughtful, mindful, Buddhist practice.

I’ve been muddling through it on my own, with a small amount of good affect. For instance, this morning I had my blood pressure checked (while I was having blood drawn) and, for what it’s worth, my reading was 98/60. Surprised the tech, as I have a rather girlish figure, in the words of a sweet acquaintance of mine.

As I’ve no sangha, no teacher, and no local examples, I’ve been relying on what I can glean from reading and listening to others from a distance (Thank goodness for the internet!). Right now I’m working on a simple approach, mostly focusing on breath meditation. Seems like a good place to start, and I’ve learned a lot.

Recently, though, my mind has been everywhere, and it is very difficult to be focused even on my breath. Occasionally my entire practice consists of naming my distraction and moving back to my breath. Obviously I’ve got a lot of work to do. In the meantime I must always strive to be gentle with myself.

Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche says that “Mindfulness practice is simple and completely feasible. Just by sitting and doing nothing, we are doing a tremendous amount.” I consider this both a part of breathing meditation, and an integral part of daily life. (The latter a constant struggle, but a good one. ^_^) I understand, though, that this is not all there is to meditation, that beyond deepening my practice of samatha I must grow to understand and successfully practice vipassana.

I could wish for an easier journey on the Path, but wouldn’t want one. Finding joy and practicing mindfulness in my current life is a delightful challenge.

Hubble and the Face of God


A little bit of a digression …. My husband and I are not of the same context, spiritually. He has a spiritual heritage, a cultural foundation that I do not. I was not raised steeped in a religious tradition. My religious upbringing was listening to other people talk about their spiritual lives as I visited with them, and also the ecumenical realities of being raised in a military community. I remember visiting churches on base for cultural events of one sort or another and letting my mind pick at the various religious artifacts I could see around me. I wanted so much to understand the spiritual rubrics they represented – really understand them, not just have an intellectual grasp of them. My churches were multi-purpose churches designed to fit the spiritual needs of the many different peoples that make up the corps of the armed forces. I am a spiritual orphan raised by a long series of spiritual foster parents. I have thought for many many years about this, and after long thought, I have realized that I am ill-suited for Christianity. It is a second language to me, not the fabric of my upbringing. So, with that said, I have always imagined, that if God is as my Christian husband believes He is, then He is sublime. And if His face is to be found, to me, it is to be found not in the rough trappings of our everyday but here, in the clouds of new solar life in a brilliant starlit nebula….