Love the World, Don’t Try to Change It

As a youth, I wanted to change the world. More accurately, I wanted to fix it to my desired state, and be the glorious hero. On my quest, I acknowledged the failures of our world, developed the ego required to know what’s best for others, and the nurtured the arrogance that I could change people to my will. Instead of making the world a better place I cultivated resentment, disappointment, and fatigue. Through this process, I discovered many inadequacies with the goal of changing the world.

In the process of licking my wounds, I discovered meditation. Deep down I still had a strong belief that the world was full of failures that needed to be fixed, and I was hoping to find the answers in my protected meditation bubble. More honestly, I hoped that by meditating, and supporting the meditation organization, that meditation would fix the world. While meditation encouraged me to accept myself and the people around me as they are, I’ve still been looking for the solution to the worlds problems, until it clicked. There’s nothing wrong with the world. There’s nothing right with the world. The world just is. The reality of this moment is simply the reality of this moment, and I can either accept it or reject it.

But what are we supposed to do if we’re not trying to fix, change, and solve the world’s problems? The truth is, I have no control over the world. I often don’t even have control over myself. So I’m left with this choice of accepting this reality or rejecting it. That’s all I can do. If you take the challenging path of accepting reality as it is, you will discover an amazing power. This complete acceptance is call unconditional love, and unconditional love is inspiring. When loved, people become motivated to grow, heal, help, and accept. I’m not changing anyone, but by accepting individuals for the beautiful beings that they are, they can be inspired to accept and love themselves. This will naturally dissolve existing impurities while cultivating positive qualities.

Meditation isn’t going to change the world, but it can help people accept and love themselves and the world around them. This unconditional love will help us grow as individuals, and as a community. What we are today is amazing, and tomorrow we can become something even better. Time to meditate.

Advertisements
Posted in Personal Experiences | 2 Comments

Everyone Can Be Happy If We Stop Trying to Win

Survival of the fittest is awesome because it turns everything into a game. If I’m bigger, faster, and stronger, I will win and survive. I can spend my whole life playing endless games to acquire wealth, fame, and power. Unfortunately, this this scientific theory that we dedicate our lives to applies to species, not individuals. The truth is, none of us survive. No matter how we choose to live our lives, we are all going to die. When I remember this reality, these games of accumulation become meaningless. What am I trying to win? And am I actually struggling to survive?

A major problem with structuring our lives in the framework of games is that while someone will win, at least one person, and often many people, will lose. And losing is miserable. I can lose a simple card game and suddenly I feel like I’ve failed at life. By constantly competing to create a pecking order through grades, income, house size, or twitter followers, we are creating an abundance of miserable people.

So what if we stopped playing games and started living by the rules of reality? We accept that life is finite, skills come and go, and resources are finite. Instead of trying to stand on someone’s shoulders to feel self worth, we start realizing that we can join the same team and work towards being happy. Instead of hording resources, we use our resources to help our communities. Instead of forcing individuals to fight over limited jobs, we help people find a way to contribute. Instead of expending energy to create an artificial reality, we can start working to accept reality as it is. Peace isn’t something you go out and get. It’s something you receive when you let go of your attachments. Meditation can help us to find peace within so we can start to share the path to peace with others. Sharing this path is what will bring lasting happiness. Time to meditate.

Posted in Personal Experiences | 1 Comment

Love People, Fight Harmful Qualities

It’s extremely easy to react negatively to adverse situations and blame others for our circumstances, but the anger we project on others only makes situations worse. If we want to live in a loving environment, we need to love the people around us. We need to love their negative qualities, their poor decisions, and all their past mistakes. This love allows the me to accept the current reality and support the individual acting poorly. When I’m acting from a place of weakness, external support may give me the strength to change, so I hope my support does the same for others.

It’s not the individual that is producing the negative behavior. It’s their sankaras of the past manifesting themselves in a way that is overpowering the individual. They need your help, energy, and support to grow. It’s not easy to modify old habit patterns. It takes time and consistent effort, but if we work together, we can make a difference.

We need to produce answers that help everyone win. When I go to a car dealership, it seems that both parties are trying to take advantage of the other. If they overcharge me, they’re happy with the extra profits. I would also be happy to take the car for below market value. But what if we managed to recognize that I want to support the dealer making a living while they appreciate being able to provide me with transportation. It seems like this typically polarizing situation can be framed as a win-win scenario where both parties can walk away happy. Imagine what your community would be like if everyone focused on growing together? How do we work towards a more selfless society? I’m not sure, but I believe meditation can help. Time to meditate.

Posted in Personal Experiences | Leave a comment

Connecting the Dots

While I’ve experienced the benefits of meditation with my own experience, it bothers me that I can’t figure out the connections. When I’m meditating 2 hours a day, my life trends upward. If my wife or I start missing our sittings, our lives just go in circles and we become agitated by the details of life. As a scientist, I like seeing the action-reaction pairs. When I water my plants, they grow. If I neglect them, they die. If I push the gas pedal, I move forward. When I hit the brakes, I stop. With meditation, it’s more like, if I meditate two hours a day for the next 3 months, I know my family relationships will improve. That doesn’t make any sense!

With my plants or my car, I’m acting directly on the object and seeing the result. With meditation, I’m sitting in a room by myself for many hours, which has nothing to do with my relatives, but I interact with them, things keep improving. Even more frustrating is that when I try to help (or change) a relative, it backfires and typically makes situations worse. So, when I try, I fail, but when I do nothing, I succeed. Wait, what?

The scientist in me has mostly given up trying to understand. If things are working, what is there to complain about? By overthinking it, I’m simply tying new knots that meditation is working to unravel. Maybe someday I’ll develop a deep enough awareness to see these subtle connections, but for now, I’m just going to roll with it. Time to meditate.

Posted in Personal Experiences | 1 Comment

Confidence is Complicated

Learning Vipassana caused me to stop evaluating my life based on my accomplishments in the world and to start looking inside. While my resume looked pretty good, I discovered that I was carrying an abundance of anger, sadness, and fear. My confidence dissipated as I reflected on the misery I brought to the people around me throughout my life. Its been a long road, but I’ve worked through most of the deepest rooted negative emotions as they manifested as painful gross sankaras. I’m not prancing around in bonga, but the gross sensations that come up are less painful and pass away more quickly.

The difficulty now is living my new way of life with confidence. I know that following precepts and meditating 2 hours a day is the healthiest way for me to live, but since it’s so unusual, I feel like I’m on an island. Confidence often comes from knowing I have the support of family or friends, but when I’m doing something that few understand, it’s harder to feel the supported stability. Maybe I’m talking more about comfort than confidence. Living Vipassana is rarely comfortable. I’m constantly challenged by the practice to go deeper within myself to draw my inner misery to the surface and face it. That’s basically the opposite of comfort, but I know it’s the right thing for me to be doing.

For many years, the struggles caused by looking within required all of my braveness. Now I’m feeling the drive to bring my new dhammic self into new environments. I used to salivate at the thrill of meeting new people and taking on new adventures. Now that I value being open and completely honest, I feel more vulnerable exploring, but I think this is the new adventure. Hopefully I’m brave enough to accept it. Time to meditate.

Posted in Personal Experiences | 1 Comment

Becoming a Householder

Another chapter in my Vipassana journey is beginning as some previous chapters are coming to a close. This past year has not been about Vipassana. From 2010 to 2015, embracing and understanding Vipassana were at the core of my life mission. After completing a year of service at Dhamma Delaware in the summer of 2015, my focus turned to establishing a householders life. I had been drifting around the east coast between Connecticut, North Carolina, Georgia, and Delaware, allowing service and growth to guide me, but I needed to establish a householders life if I really wanted to make an impact.

With a budding new Center, lots of job opportunities, and nature and cities close by, we liked the possibilities and decided to establish our lives in Wilmington, Delaware. We got married, bought a house, and both started new jobs in a 30 day span last summer. Sitting in our house today, the whole experience is still a blur and just seems ridiculous. Could we actually transition to such a grounded and seemingly permanent situation so quickly? Well, one year later, all those intuitive vibrations that convinced us to take the leap are still there. We both had successful first years at our job, we love our house, and we love being together. My first year of teaching high school science was better than expected. I was anticipating a steep and painful learning curve, but a strong, healthy, and supportive school community combined with my extensive experience working with kids helped make it a pleasant experience.  We are regular old householders, and it’s great!

This transition did squeeze Dhamma (and this blog) to the back burner. I continued to meditate at least one hour a day, and have since returned to 2 hours a day, but I did very little service and was disconnected from the whole dhamma world. Now that I feel rooted and strong in my householder life, I’m finding some time and energy opening up in my life. I’m excited to discover where my volition takes me and how Dhamma fits in. Only time will tell. Time to meditate.

Posted in Personal Experiences | Leave a comment

Meet My Wife

Start again! I started this blog in 2012 to share my journey through the tumultuous beginnings of my Vipassana adventure. Establishing a daily practice of 2 hours a day was one of the most difficult challenges of my life, but the silver lining and my biggest support throughout this journey has been my now wife, Maria Shelton. I met her 4 years ago under a tree in North Carolina immediately after completing 7 months of service at Dhamma Patapa. Maria knew little about meditation and had never heard of S.N. Goenka, but on that day, she began an amazing journey with me along the path of Dhamma. Maria quickly established a daily practice of Anapana. 2 years later, she bravely relocated with me to Delaware to help support the start Dhamma Delaware. Recently she sat her third 10-day course with me and my Mom (her first course!) at Dhamma Dhara. Last week, she decided to start writing about her journey on this blog. She has some amazing stories to share, so please give her your support as she bravely enters the world of blogging. Time to meditate.

Posted in Personal Experiences | 1 Comment

Rocky, But Beneficial

I just completed my third 10-day Vipassana course a couple of days ago. It’s hard to believe that I’m a legitimate old student now—I remember regarding the old students with great awe during my first course three years ago. And yet, I am still such a fledgling on the path. I still looked with awe at the old student in front of me in the first row, who sat serenely like a statue of Buddha throughout every single sitting—and even the discourses!! I’m not there yet.

This course was tough. I brought much more agitation and reactiveness to this course than either of my first two courses, due to significant stress in my work life and personal life in recent months. (Not surprisingly, the increased stress coincided squarely with the dwindling and near complete evaporation of my daily practice…) My mind was, indeed, a wild and untameable elephant.

Ultimately, though, while I doubted my progress at various points during the course, in the end I was certain of my benefit. My equanimity has grown. I am relieved, and my faith strengthened that continuity is, indeed, the secret to success, in the words of Goenkaji.

I am back on the wagon. Now back home, I successfully sat my two hours today, and my compass in life feels decidedly realigned. Work and personal life stressors are shifting in the right direction. Dhamma works.

Hang in there, folks!

Posted in Personal Experiences | Leave a comment

Deliberately NOT sitting

Today I’m deliberately NOT going to sit.  I think it will be a good idea.  I will start my daily sits again tomorrow, but today I won’t.  Why?

Well, since I’ve made this claim to myself, I’ve already started to ‘want’ to sit.  My thoughts are intent on getting my daily sits in, but I don’t want my intention to sit to become robotic. So, by intently not sitting today, I am training my mind to be more flexible and more equanimous.  I am watching my uncomfortable attitude toward missing my daily meditations.

I think this is fun.  I would add helpful to that list, but that’s part of the reason why I’m not sitting.  I think sitting today is going to help me.  Thinking that it’s going to do anything for the ‘me’ I’m referring to, is just not true.  So, by skipping my sits today, on purpose, I am playing with the idea that meditation will help me get over things in my life.  I’m giving that idea no credit to being true.  If I were to give in and sit, now that I’ve made this intent on not sitting, I would be meditating for the wrong reason.

This is fun.  It’s playing with the practice and checking in on a moment to moment level regardless of getting the sits in.  Oddly, because of this act of not sitting today, I think my sits will be new and refreshed and less robotic tomorrow.  That’s back to thinking they will help me again.  Perhaps they will just be as fun.  I’ll see when it’s there.  Without any preconceived ideas about what it will do for me, I will sit… tomorrow.

Posted in Personal Experiences | Leave a comment

Understand what you’re doing

It took me a while to understand what I was doing.  Then, it came to me.  What I was doing was understanding what I was doing.  For a while, I was in the process of learning what to do.  This was with my life, in a sense, but also more focused on the pursuit of learning how to draw and paint as a professional artist.

I am not a professional artist, yet.  I have now understood what I was looking at all this time.  I think this is what Vipassana is.  It is not changing what you are doing, necessarily, but seeing that change take place.  Seeing the happening happen.  I think this translates into most things that anyone would like to learn.  It needs to be seen, so that you can understand what to do, to know what to do.

I went to a dance course this last summer.  At the end of the course, the instructor said, “Now you know what you don’t know.”  Vipassana brings you into the unknown with each sit and with all the attention on your body.  Who knows what sensation will come next?  Not I!  It’s unknown, which is why it is rewarding and also why it is tough.

When you can see a path to journey, you can take that path.  It took me a while to see the path I wanted to take with my drawing and painting.  I had to listen to a lot of talks and practice a lot before I understood what I could do with it, or what didn’t serve me in learning it.  This is where I am now with that and that my understanding of this will change more, but I’m with that change now.  I’m beginning my journey, with my own guidance, into the unknown.  I have a stronger ‘seeing’ or understanding of what it is I need to understand.  It’s just as one sits their first Vipassana course.  Often, it takes you to a new level of seeing.  I think there is no way that it won’t, as long as you’re practicing properly.  The proper practice is the seeing, and that is the changing.

Posted in Personal Experiences | Leave a comment

Liveliness and Livelihood

I have been having trouble deciding what to do with my life.  Most people think that we should find a career that is something we love to do, so that we can make a livelihood while enjoying ourselves.  This can be useful to look at, but life is more than just what we do for work.  I’m also thinking that the true livelihood is not making a living, but living rightly.  Livelihood is the art of living, that does not need money as part of the equation.

Many will say to follow your passion or to live our your Dharma.  Or in another way, they’ll say to go after what you’ve got talent in.  For example, I’ve been seen by people around me to be a good draftsman and painter for most of my life.  My mom, and others, will say that I should pursue that, because I’m good at it, and I’ve always done it.  In a slight exaggeration, we can joke that the child who starts walking can ‘really get somewhere with that,’ just as someone who does something like play an instrument or draw a picture, can ‘really go places,’ with their art.  We don’t see the pursuit of these things in that silly way.  We don’t see that we are conditioned to think we should find a job, get married and have kids, or pursue things to make money that we may be good at or have done for most of our life.

One of my brothers started playing music when he was quite young.  He was let into the bars to play on stage, and escorted out.  Later on he played with many different bands and became a very good drummer.  He doesn’t play anymore.  Many musicians around the area were struck by this.  “You’ve stopped playing?”  This change completely threw them off of what was.  My dad has often been disappointed by this.  He wonders where my brother could have been if he kept playing.  My brother states, “He thinks I’d be a success if I was playing for drunk people in a club.”  Just because he is not playing, does not mean he will not play ever again, yet that’s what people react to.  It’s strange how our view of things can really alter our relationship to what we are doing or what we think we should do.

To direct your life into an area is a big act.  Some people take their whole life into one direction and specialize in a specific area.  I think that that can be great, but it also feels like a large commitment that should be undertaken for the right reason.  It’s as if one can go into a career for something, but to do that FOR the right livelihood aspect feels conflicting.  That right livelihood must be here now, wherever you are.  I don’t think it’s right if it depends on something, such as a career.  Yet, this is where I get troubled by my questioning of “what should I do with my life?”  I make the idea of career into this static image.  For example, I might go into art still, in the sense of drawing and painting.  It is something that I show continue interest in, and see lots of potential for it for self-growth and understanding.  Paradoxically, when I think I’m going to GET something from doing it, I lose it.  I begin to make an image of myself as an artist that feels lost, because it’s a fragmented view.  It takes away my right liveliness and makes it something fictional.

This is an art I’m still practicing.  The art of seeing what is and of also planning for what can be.  It seems anything I do will be a part of that practice.  Time to meditate.

Posted in Personal Experiences | Leave a comment

10 Minutes a Day

What does it take to bring meditation into your life? How much effort is required to change your life patterns? More and more people are becoming aware of the benefits of meditation, but how do they start a meditation practice? How much time must they invest before they experience the benefits?

Our lives are like freight trains. We’re all going full speed in different directions. Meditation makes individuals aware of a specific path of purification that leads to peace and harmony. The further your current life is from peace and harmony, the more difficult meditation will be. We purify our minds by observing the misery inside of us with patience and equanimity. Repeating this process over and over again allows equanimity to seep into the rest of our lives.

I wonder if 10 minutes a day for 30 days is enough to plant this seed people. Finding 10 days to discover Vipassana is impossible for many people, but 10 minutes a day might be an appropriate and valuable starting point. After 30 days, each individual could decide if they benefited from meditation, and decide if they want to continue with the practice. Some individuals may  decide to meditate for longer periods of time. Some may even be inspired to sit a 10-day course.

In my high school, I’m conducting this 30-day experiment. I’m inviting students to join me for a 10 minute meditation every morning before school starting February 17th. I’m curious to see how many students participate, how many complete the 30-day challenge, and what they think of the experience when it’s over.

Are you have trouble starting a daily practice? Why don’t you join us for the 30 day challenge. If your new to meditation watch this video first (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K5CJLKTn47k). Let me know how your challenge is going in the comments. Time to meditate.

Posted in Personal Experiences | 3 Comments

Sitting in Movement

Every Monday night I go to a movement class.  The movement can be anything.  It can be stillness, like sitting cross-legged and still, or wild movements that spread wide and fast around the room.  It’s called Mandhala Sacred Movement, and the way to go about it is to be still and check in with how your body wants to move.

I think that this type of exercise is very nice with how it relates with Vipassana daily sits.  I have some friends, both Vipassana-goers and not, who don’t like the movement class.  On the Vipassana side, they don’t want to mix it up with the practice of sitting.  On the other side, they don’t understand what it means to move how your body wants to move.

What I get out of the dance is an investigation into my depth.  Usually I am applying Vipassana while moving, whether quickly or in stillness.  Vipassana is one of the best tools for investigating oneself, and I think those who don’t have this tool would have more trouble to investigate while moving.  It is different then Vipassana, because you’re allowed to move and encouraged to listen to how your body wants to do that.  I can see why that would cause some to avoid it, as it differs from sitting without physical movement.

The benefit of this class, for me, is that it gives me a little leeway.  It’s more of a push and pull game with my craving and aversion and chattering mind, then a game of sitting still and watching.  I am always watching and listening to myself in this movement class.  I can move if it feels right, yet I am seeing if I am moving based on some conditioning or if it is a freeing movement in itself.  It is an act of listening and learning.

I think one gets a lot out of being very still for no matter what arises.  That is a deeper way to develop equanimity and this calmness.  Yet, just leaving the space for anything to happen, with the attention to whatever comes, is also an act of equanimity and of change.  I sat on the floor mid-dance last night and a thought came.  It stated, “It’s silly you still think it doesn’t change.”  There, amidst my movement, was the clearest viewing of how everything changes and how the ‘I’ is always expecting what it knows.  Sometimes something like this can be a new way of seeing how we sit, or how to use our sits in another way.

Posted in Personal Experiences | Leave a comment

Blowing the mind with dangerous fire

I was once addicted to marijuana.  It started as a recreational activity which I did with friends.  It inspired me with visions that I could use in my art and ideas that I thought were very unique and astounding while I was high.  Sometimes these ideas helped me when I sobered up to have a new understanding of an aspect of my life.  Most of the time, however, the ideas that I wanted to apply after I had had them, were impractical.  Also, at this time, I was hardly in the state of applying what I learned to life.

As it happens, I started to crave the visions I saw.  I wanted to have more ideas. Consequently, I smoked more and I ended up having many thoughts about thoughts.  The way I’ve described it to friends of mine is that when you are high, you think you are smart.  You think you are coming up with some great thing that is ‘blowing your mind’ and then it usually comes back around to being amazing just because you’re high.  Or the idea looks novel, but it is thinking about thought, and paralyzes the thinker into a roller coaster that is not anywhere near truth or a Dhamma-like change.  It is a battle that you consistently lose, because it is based on craving and aversion.  It may seem like genuine inspiration, but it lacks substance.

This, of course, is my personal experience.  It has nothing to do with anyone else and what they’ve gotten or get from the use of cannabis or any other thing like it.  I used it for recreational use and got addicted.  I was addicted to the craving and aversion, and the plant was my gateway to get there quicker.  It lead me straight onto the chain of ignorance and of chasing sensations.  This was before I had practiced Vipassana, and naturally Vipassana is what began my observing of it and understanding that it was not beneficial to me anymore.  It was also my strength to leave it behind and overcome the ‘need’ for it.

For about a year, it took over my life.  I smoked daily.  I got depressed and anti-social, and generally unintelligent and unresponsive.  I simply wanted to hide away and smoke. It was really difficult to come to terms with the fact that I tortured myself like this.  It was a dead life.  I had to forgive my actions and find peace with which was, in one sense, a wasted year.  In the other sense, it’s a year that propelled me onto the path of Dhamma with determination and a ‘smack to the face’ that it was absolutely the right path for me.

Presently, I don’t do any and I don’t think they are needed at all.  I still sometimes have the idea come up that I would like to go smoke, but the moment the idea comes, it’s gone.  I see how destructive and useless it would be to do, and simply move on.  It’s not a ‘thing’ that sticks anymore.  I see it and that’s all.  These ‘drugs’ have a use, but when taken with an unclear mind, their use is easily misunderstood.  I wouldn’t recommend them to anyone who hasn’t done Vipassana.  And to anyone who has, I also wouldn’t.

A metaphor: The elephant (our mind) isn’t trained to jump through the hoop.  We sit to train it.  Taking a substance is like setting the hoop on fire and pushing the elephant through.  The trained mind will see the fire and be able to avoid it with a concentrated jump and the wisdom to see the danger.  I pushed through the fire, with no wisdom.  In hindsight, I see what I did and why it hurts.  That had a purpose in my life, but it isn’t the way I would suggest.

Posted in Helping Others, Helping Society, Observations, Opinion, Personal Experiences | Leave a comment

Dhamma in My Catholic High School

I started teaching at a Catholic High School in August with the no intention of discussing meditation. I was hired to teach Chemistry and Physics, so that was my focus, but a strange series of events has caused the wheel of dhamma to start turning. When the administration informed me that their primary goal was to reduce student stress, I started talking to different people about my meditation experience.

Within a month, I was in charge of a meditation club that would meet every 2 weeks to practice 10 minutes of Anapana together. Initially there was a reasonable amount of interest, but I was so nervous about getting into trouble that I didn’t give them much instruction. I didn’t want to talk about Buddha, sankaras, or even my own personal experience because I thought the information could be misinterpreted second hand, so I just asked them to focus on their breath with me. Similar to adults, the students other commitments started crowding out their meditation practices, but I never heard one concern or complaint about what I was teaching. This gave me confidence to be a little more bold.

A second opportunity arose when my school was looking for 3 teachers to prepare a Ted Talk type presentation for the students related to stress. I was again nervous, but I started asking inquiring. The campus minister and I decided if I wanted to give a presentation on meditation, it would be smart to practice with a smaller group to see how it was received. I prepared a 35 minute presentation and gave it to both of my Chemistry classes with a few teachers present. The presentation got wonderful reviews, and my classes have decided they want to meditate at the beginning of each class. Again, I received no negative feedback from teachers, parents, or students regarding me lesson.

I just gave my presentation to 200 people. That’s 1/3 of the school. Almost everyone was interested and engaged. When I asked the audience to close their eyes and focus on their breath for 5 minutes, everyone participated. So far the feedback has been incredibly supportive with many students asking questions and expressing interest. Some faculty have commented on how their students were calm and attentive in the classes following my presentation. And still, I’ve received no negative feedback. Over the next month, I’ll be giving he presentation 2 more times so all of the students will see it. I’m not sure where things will go from their, but I’m optimistic that the dhamma wheel will continue to turn. For now, I just need to keep meditating. Time to meditate.

 

Posted in Personal Experiences | 4 Comments

Between Things

Marilyn and Steve snuck up behind me on the boardwalk where I’d been trying to still my fiery brain with the sound of rippling water. I’d seen them here before. They scan the landscape through binoculars for blue herons, and wallow in wonder with every glimpse of one. I wanted to wallow in wonder, too.

Blue herons, they say, prefer to hunt at twilight, often with one foot in the water and one on land, staying still for long stretches of time while waiting for the perfect strike. Blue herons, in other words, are creatures of liminality.

After they’d entertained some of my elementary questions about the birds, Marilyn and Steve offered to lead me to an unobstructed view of the sunset, achievable from some abandoned train track bridge just a short walk away. They struck me as worth following. So that’s what I did, followed familiar strangers onto an old bridge at dusk: neither here nor there, day nor night, but somewhere in between. We, too, are creatures of liminality.

Sitting in stillness, paradoxically, exposes a constant and subtle flux at the heart of experience. Much like standing on a bridge at sunset, though, we can practice welcoming and even appreciating liminality—not for certainty in a world of dichotomies, but for clarity in an experience that can’t be contained by them. There’s a kind of clarity found only in moments of suspension, I think, and however rare and fleeting our awareness of these moments may be, I’m reminded by Marilyn and Steve to keep scanning, to keep rejoicing in every glimpse.

Posted in Personal Experiences | Leave a comment

Returning to Living Vipassana

I stopped writing regularly for this blog about 8 months ago. I had run out of things to say, and there were aspects of my life outside of dhamma that required my focus. Today, I feel new questions surfacing within me, and the answers aren’t obvious. When I started this blog in 2012 I had a similar feeling. While dhamma is not an intellectual exercise, I needed a space to logically process all the changes dhamma was bringing to my life. I found writing helped bring focus to my thoughts.

Sharing my writing has provided different benefits at different times including providing a platform to communicate my changing perspective, an opportunity to connect with other like minded meditators, and hopefully providing some support for individuals facing similar struggles. I think it also boosted my ego at times, for better or worse, to see people from all over the word reading my posts.

Today, I hope that writing and sharing my thoughts will provide similar benefits. I feel that I’m entering a new frontier on my path, and I can use all the help and support I can get. While I’m not sure how long it will last, for now I going to try writing once a week, every Friday. Hopefully the blog continues to benefit me and the people who come in contact with it. Time to meditate.

Posted in Personal Experiences | Leave a comment

Stopping and Snowballing

Last week I started to stop my daily meditations.  By the end of the week I was not getting my two sits in.

This problem reminds me of a poem that was in the book, “The Moon Appears When the Water is Still.”  A monk arrives at a woman’s house and is looking for a place to stay that is out of the rain.  He can’t stay with her, because it would be against his precepts, as she lives alone.  The woman then asks him to lie, and then eat meat, and then take a drink. The poem takes us through his declining of every action that is against his sila, which is implied in the woman’s every request.  At the end of his declines, the woman says, “what can one drink hurt?”  The poem finishes by saying that at the end of the night, all the precepts were broken, because of that one drink.

This is the danger of taking one step in a direction away from Dhamma.  It multiplies.  The daily sits, I’ve noticed, are important to my well-being.  If I miss a day because I’m busy, I might say, “that’s okay, I’ll get it tomorrow.”  Though, if I miss tomorrow, I might say the same thing.  Then, I’ve missed three days, and pretty soon a week’s gone by.  After a week of not getting my daily sits in, I notice that I start to feel more agitated and less equanimous in my daily actions.  It is important to me, to get my daily sits in.  I also think that it is important to be an inspiration to others by sitting daily.  That’s almost an extra incentive to make sure you do it; consider how the example looks to others and that it might help them get their sits in, when you do.

Sometimes you may still lack equanimity and balance of the mind, even when sitting every day.  The mind is a wild animal at times, and we are required to tame it.  As we tame it, it still runs wild.  The difference between not meditating and meditating is that we are dealing with it on a morning and night basis, directly.  It may still come up, just as much, or more, while we sit.  The good thing to notice is that it comes up less and less because of our work; because we meditate.  Time to sit.

Posted in Personal Experiences | 1 Comment

Meditation Takes a Backseat

For 6 months, my afternoon meditation took a backseat to everything else going on in my life. My life was full of positive things that needed my attention (wedding, new house, new job), and my afternoon meditation just didn’t make the list. My morning routine was strong enough that I continued to sit for an hour every morning, and I found this helpful, but I simply decided not to sit in the afternoon.

Was this a mistake? Was I harming myself by missing that second hour? Given what was on my plate, it sure didn’t seem like it. I was building the foundation for the rest of my life and growing in many ways outside of dhamma. If the foundation of my life is strong, I will be able to continue growing in dhamma for many years to home. If the foundation is weak, I believe it will become much more difficult.

Now that my life is stable and good, I have noticed some complacency. I find myself wasting time on the internet or finding other distractions instead of meditating. I’m reminded that looking within is hard and requires a strong intention and effort. When life is going smoothly, at least on the apparent level, it’s hard to find the motivation to explore the dark spots within. While I was only meditating 1 hour a day, it didn’t feel like I was growing in dhamma, but I was able to stand stationary on the path. Now that the rest of my life is settling, I think it’s time to rediscover the importance of meditating 2 hours a day. Time to meditate.

Posted in Personal Experiences | 3 Comments

What Has Helped Me

Ryan Shelton, creator of this blog, wrote in a most recent post, “I want people to feel encouraged and supported in practicing however they can within the limitations of the rest of their lives. I don’t know exactly how to help…”

That struck me. I too, as a writer for this blog, feel the same way.  I don’t know what to say that can inspire anyone to practice more and learn the Art of Living, other than truthfully telling the story of how I’m maintaining my own daily practice and how it affects my day to day life.  I realized too, that many of us would have different difficulties, and perhaps more difficulties than I now have at maintaining daily sits.  I have integrated these daily sits into my life for the most part.  It is more of a joy and ease to practice them now.  I will impart what wisdom I have in my blog posts here.

For starters, what are some things that have helped me to get to this point of practice where the two day sits are manageable and something I make time for no matter what?

  1. I did some long term service at the center nearest where I live.  This was when I sat my second and third course.  I served and sat courses intermittently and it was of great value to instilling the practice within me and understanding the volunteering side of it, which is just as beneficial.  I say to many that it is more beneficial to sit one course and serve one, than it is to sit two.  Serve if you haven’t.  It will help you manage daily sits in your own life.
  2. Adding one hour timed gong and chanting (S. N. Goenka) ‘music files’ to my I pod to use for daily sittings and group sittings.  It’s helped me to switch between using an alarm clock and using chanting or gongs.  Keeps it ‘fresh.’
  3. Hosting potlucks and group sittings every weekend.  It is very casual when we host, but we get a good meditation in none the less.  It is nice to have the official places for group sits, but it is also nice to have a place for random friends to join and do Annapanna. Many of those who started to come and sit with us have now gone to a 10 day course.  The potluck atmosphere is also helpful for talking about Vipassana and encouraging others in their practice.  I would also mention that the right friends are important.  It is dangerous to hang around fools; who will step on your practice with or without knowing.
  4. Having a meditation space.  I haven’t scheduled my sits at the same time every day, which is recommended in books like ‘A Meditator’s Handbook by Bill Crecelius,’ but I have made a space that I often do my daily sits in.  It is a good anchor.  Mine’s in my closet.  When I’m having a really bad sit, which still happens; I make sure I stay in the closet and just don’t leave until the hour is up.  I may not be really meditating all that much, but I’m keeping a strong determination, and the closet doors help so I don’t get distracted and leave.
  5. Dhamma books and Dhamma talks.  I have not read that many from the centers, but the ones I have read have been a great inspiration.  I also have found other key things that I feel are inspirations to walking the same path.  Some of these things would be: Avatar: The Last Airbender (TV show), Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind (movie and manga), Studio Ghibli films, Alan Watts, J. Krishnamurti, Mooji etc.
  6. Switching it up.  Doing 3 meditations for one week to solidify your practice a bit.  Go to the center for a short term service.  Meditate three times for just one day.  Do it first thing in the morning.  Wait half the day, then do both your sits.  Do a two hour sit.  All these changes have happened naturally as I’ve developed my practice.  It’s easy to be hard on ourselves, but it isn’t being equanimous.  Play with the practice.  Try different things.  The first step is the last step.  Walk in the direction and you will not fail.  I WILL mention that it is not generally easy to meditate last thing before bed, or ON your bed.  Sleep is a danger to meditation.  Doing it and succeeding against the temptation to sleep is good, but if it’s not working on a regular basis, sit somewhere else.

    Another ‘welcoming’ thought is that you will only NOT practice, until you realize you HAVE to practice.  The elastic can only stretch so far back before it springs forward.  Do what you can with the time you have.  Good luck strangers… into the unknown we go.

Posted in For Non Meditators, Helping Others, Helping Society, Observations, Opinion, Personal Experiences | 2 Comments

Every Step Helps

Long before I learned to meditate, I decided to dedicate my life to helping all people grow and live better lives. Along this journey, I discovered Vipassana, and I believe the 10-day course teaches a complete path to purification. I struggle with the gap between providing the teaching, and helping people walk the path. From my observation, very few people are able to complete a 10-day course, and much fewer are able to practice 2 hours a day. While the path most certainly requires individuals to pass these milestones at some point, I don’t believe it’s the starting point.

The teaching emphasizes the importance of Sila, Samadhi, and Panna. Only Panna requires a 10-day course to develop understanding. I’ve sat and served multiple 10-day courses, but the biggest challenge is taking the time every day to meditate. Life is filled with activities to draw us away from meditation, and the more distance we put between ourselves and our practice, the harder it is to start again. It’s this daily effort to develop dhamma in our lives that leads us down the path. We can have complete intellectual understanding, but if we don’t take the time to face the impurities within, we’re going to struggle to grow.

I want to explore how to help people to begin walking this beautiful path. I want everyone to realize that every day is an opportunity to take steps in the right direction on this path. I want people to feel encouraged and supported in practicing however they can within the limitations of the rest of their lives. I don’t know exactly how to help, but I want to spend some time thinking about it. Time to meditate.

Posted in Personal Experiences | Leave a comment

Safe

I find it unspeakable to speak the truth.

I find all shallow thoughts of men are my own.

I find wholeness lights every way I can see.

Now, moving in truth, I see no other way.

I find myself feeling for sensation,

when my heart is weary and tender.

I find the cries of old and young the same.

Each of us, responsible.  This world.

I find no thoughts to reach a living.

To be held onto what I know is treacherous.

It slips out and into the depths unknown.

Where there is no guide, only home.

Quiet silence of waves for the sensitive one.

They act in the kind and ruthless ways.

All living coming to pass.

All that suffered brought to shore.

Each of us, many guides.

And we are the only ones, of all.

May we be true to ourselves.

To light a home that will be unperturbed

through all storms, strong and small.

Like light and dark, see the change.

Hear the calling from your frames

and be with all that is.

You’re safe.

-Anthony Ross
(Flexanimous Art)
flexanimousart.blogspot.ca

 

 

Posted in For Non Meditators, Helping Others, Helping Society, Observations, Personal Experiences, Poetry | Leave a comment

Be Quiet and Listen

This is a discussion that I have listened to multiple times and continue to get more out of it.  I’ve posted it on this blog before, because it is a truly marvelous and very Dhamma-like conversation.

http://www.jkrishnamurti.org/krishnamurti-teachings/view-video/knowledge-and-the-transformation-of-man-part-1-of-18.php

The discussion is about as close to ‘what is’ as you can get, aside from meditating.  It’s the nearest words can get to speaking about the Dhamma, without being overly poetic.  It is also why, most people who haven’t done a 10 day Vipassana course, would not understand this conversation.  It’s eighteen hours long, by the way.  That’s because it’s very thorough.  They go slow and ‘go into’ each question and the whole movement of life.  This is the stuff of life.  It’s the stuff that many people miss, because they’re in their heads.  Or better said, paraphrasing some words from this dialogue, ‘they’re mulling over the images that they’ve made about life, and not seeing the thing itself.’

This brings me to what I’ve been ‘dealing’ with in my day to day life most recently.  I’m at this seminar thing on weekdays and it’s very much like a high school type of deal.  It’s something I’m require to be at.  We sit around the room and mainly listen to a man speak about terms and define words that can be endlessly defined and analysed.  The ‘teacher’ is a man who is stuck in knowledge and thinks he is wise.  He is someone who does not understand meditation or what it means to see what is, without interpreting it.  This brings up a problem that Krishnamurti and Dr. Allan Anderson go into in their talk.  “How can a human being (oneself or another) bring about a person who is undisturbed enough to listen?”

This is listening in the total sense, meaning, meditation.  Listen with your whole body and your whole mind.  This is something that terms don’t touch and words, in the superficial way they are often used, cease to give meaning.  It may sound like I’m complaining, but this is more a matter of sensitivity and having to be in a situation, on a day to day basis, with a person who does not care enough to listen, in that sense, and what to do about it.

The way the question is put, “…undisturbed enough to listen,” is because of the fire that you are thrown in when you meditate.  It’s a fire of attention, and breath.  There is no escaping in words or conclusion.  As each of us meditate, we go into this fire more and more.  We are on an edge, so to speak, and there is no stopping it now.  When you sit a 10 day course, Vipassana is now with you, whether you sit daily or not.  There it is, creeping up through your sensations, all the time.  That is why it is disturbing, or can be.

Then, in every day life, you find yourself with others who don’t feel this fire.  They don’t know how to meet it.  Sometimes you can’t get away from them, like my current situation. What I’ve found then, is to be selfish with my practice, when I’m there with someone who will not listen.  With some people, there’s no convincing them and no use trying.  When that’s the case, it’s time to meditate.  Go in and sit there with the fire.  It’s the salvation for oneself to do this, and the only way that awareness and attention can permeate towards them.  At some point, they may feel it.  In the meantime, be quiet and keep practicing.

~

Writing for this site helps me with my practice, but I’d also like it to help you (readers) as much as possible.  If there’s a topic you want me to write about or anything else you’d like to share, comment on this post or email me at: flexanimousart@gmail.com

Visit flexanimousart.blogspot.ca for other writings and things I explore.

 

Posted in Helping Others, Helping Society, Observations, Opinion, Personal Experiences | Leave a comment

Start Again

At one of the courses I sat, there was an assistant teacher who had one more thing to say before the course was over.  It was the last sit of the morning before everyone went for breakfast and left the center.  The last thing he said was, “Take a short break…”

People laughed and were a bit confused.  It was the end of the course.  It was time to leave, and that line, ‘take a short break,’ usually was used often during the course, and usually followed up by something like ‘then come back to meditate in the hall and in your own rooms.’

This time, he continued with, “…And come back to the center.  Make this your center.”

I thought it was a masterful way to end the course.  Vipassana is never over. The night you get home from the course, you’ve got to get that second sit of the day in.  And all the while, you can be aware of your breath and sensations on your body.  At times, you may forget.  The teacher is not there to say, take a short break, and start again.  You have to be your own mentor, your own master.

Done a sit recently?  Gone to a course?  Good.  Take a short break, and start again.

 

Writing for this site helps me with my practice, but I’d also like it to help you (readers) as much as possible.  If there’s a topic you want me to write about or anything else you’d like to share, comment on this post or email me at: flexanimousart@gmail.com

Visit flexanimousart.blogspot.ca for other writings and things I explore.

Posted in Helping Others, Helping Society, Observations, Personal Experiences | Leave a comment

Ways to See Equanimity

There are many different ways to speak of equanimity and awareness.  Most of the spiritual speakers and writers of the world will point to these two principles in some way.  They may only point to things that point to these things, but still, they are on the same track to seeing it.  They may also not know what they are pointing at, but say it in a way that you can translate it back to something that works for you and aligns with your understanding and experience of what it means to be equanimous.

For example, Stephen Silver, a character designer does what he calls Art Talks on Youtube. In one of the talks he says something like this, “You’re never going to get everything you desire.  When you fulfill one desire, you’ll have another one that you want to get.  So at some point, you realize you just have to appreciate the moment and where you’re at now.”

Another artist, Jeff Watts, quoted in one of his videos, “Be a master at where you’re at.”

There are many ways of saying the same things.  Be aware.  Be equanimous.  Another example is Abraham Hicks, who says many things along the lines of, “You think that this or that thing makes this other person happy.  And you think, when I get those things, I’ll be happy like they seem to be, but it doesn’t work that way.  We say, be happy first, and those things will come, and if they don’t it won’t matter because you’ll be happy regardless.”

Another person who channels energy known as Bashar has said that the definition of abundance (or awareness and equanimity) is “having the ability to do what you need to do when you need to do it.”  When you’re in the zone, or with the moment, or better said, not chasing something special elsewhere, you’ll be abundant.  That awareness and realization that there’s nowhere else you need to be brings peace.  Any direction is an attachment and a form of escape or a dissipation of energy, but were all on different paths, and equanimity is a sliding scale.

Your completeness or incompleteness will change.  Don’t try to find one or the other.  That implies you lack equanimity.  Just be and come back to breath.  Activate anicca, as U Ba Khin says.  Be aware of the change, and equanimity will follow naturally.

 

Writing for this site helps me with my practice, but I’d also like it to help you (readers) as much as possible.  If there’s a topic you want me to write about or anything else you’d like to share, comment on this post or email me at: flexanimousart@gmail.com

Visit flexanimousart.blogspot.ca for other writings and things I explore.

Posted in For Non Meditators, Helping Others, Helping Society, Observations, Opinion, Personal Experiences | Leave a comment

Simplicity

What amazes me again and again about Vipassana is its simplicity. I’ve started to get my daily sits in without having to think about TRYING to do so. They are a natural part of my life now. I think this is ideal with any form of art. For it to really be something you’re involved in, you have to do it on a consistent basis.

Vipassana is one of the few things in my life that really hits at the core. Everything connects to everything, but this practice is the deepest art form. It’s a way of living that runs through the whole body at all times. There is not much that we can compare it to in terms of other daily activities, because it itself is an activity all the time. Therefore, there is no time that we can really put aside to do it, in a sense. Even those of us who haven’t sat a ten day course have some level of body awareness. It’s happening. The way to ‘get with it’ is to sit.

There’s a poem in ‘The Moon Appears When the Water Is Still,’ that goes like this:

Sitting does not create truth,
Meditation does not produce insight,
Just as smelling a flower
Does not make it fragrant

The perfume of the rose is there.
We slow down to attend the unfolding.

There’s immense simplicity in that. There’s no ‘doing’ or ‘making it happen.’ It is. Awareness and attention of it is what we cultivate, and that is the truth we carry in all areas of our life. Everything is included in the Dhamma, but not everything includes the Dhamma. Always come back to your practice of Vipassana. Even if you stop practicing, it doesn’t leave you. Another ‘poem’ comes to mind. It speaks of the difference between liking something and loving it. When you like a flower, you pick it. When you love a flower, you water it every day.

 

Writing for this site helps me with my practice, but I’d also like it to help you (readers) as much as possible.  If there’s a topic you want me to write about or anything else you’d like to share, comment on this post or email me at: flexanimousart@gmail.com

Visit flexanimousart.blogspot.ca for other writings and things I explore.

Posted in For Non Meditators, Helping Others, Helping Society, Observations, Opinion, Poetry | Leave a comment

Ask Yourself What’s More Beneficial

Hi everybody. I used to write once a week for this site, and now I’m back. As I used to, I am once again coming up with these posts during my meditations. Silly mind, focus on breath.

I’ve gone through many stages with my practice since 2012 when I sat my first course. It’s been an intense and marvelous journey. After my third course, I decided it was time to do an entire year with two sits a day. I achieved that, and it was great. Then, I mixed it up for a bit, meditating only about an hour a day most of the time, and for a few months I didn’t sit at all. It was in June this year that I was inspired to sit consistently again, and I have done so since.

What inspired me? I went to the center nearest my house and served for three days. After lunch on the first day, I went to the assistant teacher for an interview. I didn’t really have a question, per say, but I went on a bit of a ramble like this:

“I feel like I’m on this path whether I like it or not. I’m getting more and more moments of clarity, but I don’t know how they come about. I don’t know what to do…”

(Something like that. What I mean by “I feel like I’m on this path whether I like it or not,” is that during the last year when I wasn’t doing two sits a day, I was still doing what I felt was acting in truth. My seeking or development in the Dhamma continued in different ways, because it’s what I’m called to do, even without a daily sit.)

“So,” he said, “You’re asking what is a good goal to have.”

I thought, “Yeah… That IS my question.”

“Well… A good goal to have would be to get two sits in every day.”

He went on, “What is more beneficial… Meditating twice a day, or once a week? …And keeping your sila perfect.”

I turned away in thought, because the following week I had plans to alter my mind with some psychoactive plant medicine. He saw my reaction, but I didn’t share that information with him.

He went on, “Maybe you’re not ready for that, but you have to ask yourself what’s really more beneficial for you.”

The next few days at the center, that was in my mind. In the quiet cabin that I was in, I layed on my bed and thought about it. What’s really beneficial? Breaking my sila next week by taking an intoxicant or meditating twice a day and keeping my sila perfect? I knew the answer. It came as a small, but supremely intelligent and certain voice.

“You know what to do.”

And I did. The voice was small, where as the rest of me felt bigger than it, but clumsier. There was certainty in that response, and I listened to it. There was just a small percentage of me, say, 3%, that said, “Meditate twice a day and keep your sila perfect.” I trusted that 3% one hundred percent. The power of that voice has diminished slightly since then. I don’t always feel that strong certainty that I did that day, but I’m still giving that moment at the centre the benefit of the doubt. I’m glad I am, because this practice works and is very important for my well being. Find the space to listen to that small voice, and give it credit. Sometimes it means going to a centre for a short Metta re-charge. Sometimes it means meditating.

 

Writing for this site helps me with my practice, but I’d also like it to help you (readers) as much as possible.  If there’s a topic you want me to write about or anything else you’d like to share, comment on this post or email me at: flexanimousart@gmail.com

Visit flexanimousart.blogspot.ca for other writings and things I explore.

Posted in For Non Meditators, Helping Others, Helping Society, Personal Experiences | Leave a comment

Meditate or Sleep?

As I’ve transitioned back into a full time job with typical household responsibilities, my task list has grown, and the competition for my time has increased. In the past, I was able to choose to meditate over having down time, but my task list seems to keep me busy until bedtime and I’m stuck deciding whether I should skip my second sitting so I can go to bed on time, or if I should accept having less sleep so I can sit. I tend to find sitting when I’m exhausted to be rather unproductive, so over the last few months, I’ve typically chosen sleep.

At first I felt liberated choosing not to be trapped by this second hour of sitting, but as my growth along the path has started to stagnate, I’ve been desiring to sit the second hour. Instead of meditating after I’ve completed all of my necessary tasks for the day, I might need to consider meditation to be one of those tasks. Instead of clearing my list, I might need to defer some items to the next day to ensure that I have enough energy to properly meditate.

I realize that this post may be rather mundane and obvious, but it’s the ranking of my life priorities that’s illuminating. In order to prioritize meditation, I need to demote other tasks from mandatory to secondary. The psychological shift of prioritizing spiritual growth over every day accomplishments is profound, at least to me. Time to meditate.

Posted in Personal Experiences | 1 Comment

My Return to Society

My busy summer included getting married, buying a home, and starting a new job as a high school science teacher. I live in a suburban neighborhood 10 minutes from Dhamma Delaware, a new Vipassana Meditation Center, and within 30 minutes of Philadelphia and Wilmington. Now I want to discover what Vipassana has to offer society, and figure out how I can help.

Goenka’s organization has perfected the 10-day introductory meditation course for individuals interested in seeking out that experience. What I wonder is if meditation has a place in transforming our society. Sitting 2-hours a day is powerful for serious meditators, but the general public is not going to reach that degree of commitment. Children’s courses encourage kids and teens to sit 10 minutes every morning and evening, and adults in various traditions have witnessed improvement in concentration, stress and anger management, and academics with regular observation of the breathe (see article).

Would introducing Anapana and encouraging groups to sit together for 10 minutes a day show significant results in neighborhoods, businesses, or families? What information or supports would these groups need to inspire their effort? What groups would be most open to exploring meditation. As I’ve reintegrated my life into society, these are the questions that are coming to my mind. I’m not sure exactly if or how I’ll pursue them, but they are intriguing. Time to meditate.

Posted in Helping Society | 4 Comments

Neither the Pessimists nor Optimists

Over the past few weeks a lot has happened in national news, ranging from downright diabolical to morally triumphant. Much has been said about all of it, and my intention here is not to say more about the events themselves, but to explore the honest space between optimism and pessimism as modes of response.
After the AME Church massacre in Charleston, I became part of the conversation among activists overwhelmed with devastation and outrage. This emotional response to the massacre and willingness to embrace the antiracist work yet to be done felt deeply appropriate, particularly in contrast with the voices of oblivious disinterest and, even worse, what Danielle Laporte calls unconscious optimism. I was taken aback by the sentiment of don’t-worry-be-happy underlying so much of the commentary on my newsfeed the day after nine people had been murdered in cold blood by another monstrous product of racism. I was floored by the onslaught of utterances in the vein of its-all-going-to-be-okay when, clearly, it isn’t so long as we permit each other to choose violent devolution over genuine moral growth. I saw positive denial masquerade as spirituality and felt the need to remind myself that…

We propagate tragedies—whether personal or collective—when we do not acknowledge them (pain)fully and do the humbling work they inspire.

Then some good happened. There was the “Bridge to Peace”, where thousands of people came together to demonstrate solidarity in the wake of a nightmare. There was the Supreme Court’s ruling that granted marriage to everyone regardless of sexual orientation and recognized the validity of healthcare as a universal right. I felt a deep urge to celebrate these incremental victories as a sign of our moral consideration ratcheting upwards. I was giddy and hopeful and avidly watching my newsfeed morph into a cascade of unicorns and rainbows and #LoveWins.

IN ANY EVENT: I did not get to celebrate. To bring up good news items in certain circles is to be effectively scolded for celebrating when there is still so much bad that needs fixing. I’ve been told, for example, by some queer activists that marriage rights shouldn’t be celebrated so long as queer youth are still being kicked out of their homes and committing suicide. I’ve also been told by some progressives that universal healthcare shouldn’t be celebrated considering how obviously flawed and inadequate Obamacare really is. I was made to feel dumb for feeling any gratitude at all. But I knew, with every cell of my body, that …

Dismissive disapproval is as inappropriate and unhelpful a response as unconscious optimism.

If we must acknowledge painful tragedies, then we must also acknowledge incremental improvements. We can acknowledge both. If we can entertain despair in the wake of senseless violence then we can entertain hope in the wake of partial victories. We can feel both.

And if the goal, ultimately, is to decrease suffering then we will no doubt have to look at all the hard stuff, like systemic racism and homelessness among queer youth, and take constructive action (including meditation). But can’t we do so without dismissing all of these little imperfect victories along the way? Isn’t the dismissal of gratitude in favor of insisting that nothing is ever good enough itself a cause of suffering?  In order to reach a goal, don’t we have to embody the goal?

With gratitude,
Alex

Posted in Personal Experiences | 1 Comment