Here are some questions we might take into dyads or group discussion during our Tuesday saṅgha. They were brainstormed, unedited, and in no particular order. Please comment or add others for us to consider:
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by Oriah Mountain Dream.
People usually come to spiritual practices to alleviate (or escape) the anguish in their lives. But there is no way out. The only way is through, starting with the truth of how this moment truly is. For me, this prose poem points to this gentle fierceness. Oriah Mountain Dreamer was not writing as a Buddhist. But she captures in Western idioms some of the depth and textures that don't come through as fluidly in scholarly translations of the sutras . Freedom comes through a wide open and unrelenting poignancy, not through careful correctness. - Doug
It doesn't interest me what you do for a living. I want to know what you ache for, and if you dare to dream of meeting your hearts longing.
It doesn't interest me how old you are. I want to know if you will risk looking like a fool for love, for your dreams, for the adventure of being alive.
It doesn't interest me what planets are squaring your moon. I want to know if you have touched the center of your own sorrow, if you have been opened by life's betrayals, or have become shriveled and closed from fear of further pain.
I want to know if you can sit with pain, mine or your own, without moving to hide it or fade it or fix it. I want to know if you can be with joy, mine or your own; if you can dance with wildness and let the ecstasy fill you to the tips of your fingers and toes without cautioning us to be careful, be realistic, or to remember the limitations of being human.
It doesn't interest me if the story you are telling me is true, I want to know if you can disappoint another to be true to yourself. If you can bear the accusation of betrayal and not betray your own soul.
I want to know if you can be faithful and therefore trustworthy. I want to know if you can see beauty, even when it is not pretty every day, and if you can source your life from its presence.
I want to know if you can live with failure, yours or mine, and still stand on the edge of a lake and shout to the silver of the full moon, "Yes!"
It doesn't interest me to know where you live or how much money you have. I want to know if you can get up after the night of grief and despair, weary and bruised to the bone, and do what needs to be done for the children.
It doesn't interest me who you are, or how you came to be here- I want to know if you will stand in the center of the fire with me and not shrink back.
It doesn't interest me where or what or with whom you have studied. I want to know what sustains you from the inside when all else falls away. I want to know if you can be alone with yourself, and if you truly like the company you keep in the empty moments.
This is one of my favorite poems of all times. And know it has been illustrated for us by a middle aged yogi and a five year old yogi. The poem was written by Donald C. Babcock and appeared in the New Yorker in October of 1947 (at about the time I was conceived).
Now we are ready to look at something pretty special.
It is a duck riding the ocean a hundred feet beyond the surf.
No, it isn't a gull.
A gull always has a raucous touch about him.
This is some sort of duck, and he cuddles in the swells.
He isn't cold, and he is thinking things over.
There is a big heaving in the Atlantic,
And he is part of it.
He looks a bit like a mandarin, or the Lord Buddha meditating under the Bo tree,
But he has hardly enough above the eyes to be a philosopher.
He has poise, however, which is what philosophers must have.
He can rest while the Atlantic heaves, because he rests in the Atlantic.
Probably he doesn't know how large the ocean is.
And neither do you.
But he realizes it.
And what does he do, I ask you. He sits down in it.
He reposes in the immediate as if it were infinity – which it is.
That is religion, and the duck has it.
He has made himself part of the boundless,
by easing himself into it just where it touches him.
I like the little duck.
He doesn't know much.
But he has religion.
Ease (peacefulness, equanimity) and wakefulness (clear awareness) are with us all the time. But they have no tension to draw our attention, so we miss them. Meanwhile unwholesome qualities like striving, desire, aversion, fear, and discouragement may also be present. These have a lot of tension and draw our attention. Like the nightly news, bad news grabs the headlines while good news is boring.
Searching for peaceful awareness is like scouring the countryside to find our noses. Rather than strive for easeful wakefulness, we can use them by taking a dispassionate interest in whatever is going.
If the mind is scattered, we just notice, “Ah, scattered mind.” If it’s peaceful we notice, “Hmmm, peacefulness.” If it’s grumpy and resistant we notice, “Far out, grumpiness.” What arises in the mind-heart is not as important as the quality with which we know it. This journey is easier if we smile and enjoy what’s happening rather than tensely control or fret about it.
Here’s the secret: unwholesome qualities cannot survive in the light of relaxed awareness. They dissolve like mist in the morning sun.
Even if ease and wakefulness seem puny, we can still exercise what we have. Dispassionate interest makes them stronger. As awareness grows, it will take care of those hindrances and distractions. We don’t have to do it. Our job is to take care of awareness. Then it can do its job of taking take care of us.
T. S. Elliot famously wrote:
We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
Our practice brings comfort with new ways of seeing, even when it involves new ways of describing the practice itself. Last night's sangha saw this recasting of the 6-Rs...
...as the 5 S's: