Posted by: Upāsaka | 08/18/2014

Drowning in Suffering

It has gotten to the point where I quite literally feel as if I am drowning in suffering. The disagreements between my wife and I continue unabated and constantly threaten to escalate into open conflicts and I find myself wondering how it is possible to both practice the Path and be in such a trying circumstance. The hard part is that I know that all of this suffering is mine as a result of my own past deeds and that I am even now making my own bed of suffering. No one is at fault, no one is to blame and yet there are no innocents.

So, what to do and what to believe? Without the sanctuary of my formal practice routine I find myself slipping under the waves of anger,  worry, resentment and depression but taking time for myself only seems to result in more conflict. It is always at times such as these when I find myself longing to call out for the help of the Lord Buddha but am stymied by the thought that he has passed into Nibbana and no longer can help lost worldlings such as myself. Maybe it’s a remnant of of my Catholic past but the idea of a parental and omnipotent figure is certainly attractive in the throes of deep suffering. In absence of the Lord Buddha himself may I at least take refuge in the Dhamma and discipline and so do what I can to chip away at the eons of suffering I have created for myself and blaze a path to freedom no matter how long it takes.

Posted by: Upāsaka | 08/17/2014

A Difficult Day

Today began early as we roused the troops to make a 5:40am river boat tour before travelling for several hours to oir next destination in San Jose. Suffice it to say that  I was not up to the challenge this morning and  allowed myself to speak and act in anger rather than keeping cool. And, as I’m sure many of you can appreciate, once the flood gates were open it was hard to crank them shut again.

Most of the day was spent trying to put the genie back in the bottle and I must admit to not being very successful. The theme today and cause of much of my irritation were the myriad decisions my wife made about our, most of which I disagreed with on points of principle as well as for practical reasons. It seemed that we were at loggerheads all day with each new juncture a point of contention. At times like this I often wonder what the Lord Buddha would say and, try as I may, I can never come up with a good analog from the canon. So, what is the Dhammic way to approach a situation where you have to live with what you consider to be another person’s bad decisions? Once you have expressed your diference of opinion and have realized that nothing short of a full scale revolt will suffice to change the course of things what do you do? Simply roll over? Try to be firm without bavking down or giving into anger? I just can’t seem to figure this one out.

Posted by: Upāsaka | 08/15/2014

Sticking with It

I have made the determination or aditthana to practice the brahmaviharas at all times and have been enjoying much more ease as a result. This is especially true during the many and varied encounters we have with various drivers, guides, shopkeepers and service people. Whereas I have, in the past, been prone to negativity and suspicion in my dealings with these people on the street I am now able to negotiate without the added burden of hatred. That, in itself, is well worth even the hackneyed practice I am capable of here.

And yet, for all its benefits it can still be tiring to try to constantly cultivate a heart of care, kindness and concern at all times. I have experienced this before and have never been sure of what to do but am beginning to feel my way into a kind of practice that takes into consideration my own needs for kindness and compassion just as much as any other being’s. So, when I begin to tire or the dailly life practice seems to be getting dry I have been turning to myself with better results. Whether the moment calls for simple awareness, mindfulness of breathing of metta-karuna for myself I am able to incline there out of kindness and not try to forcefully radiate metta to others. May I value kindness and compassion above all else and may I bring an end to suffering.

Posted by: Upāsaka | 08/15/2014

Kindness without Reason

As the days pass and I have been able to spend less time in formal practice and reflection I find myself questioning my purpose from time to time. Yes, it seems a stange thing to write but in the course of a day I have found myself grasping time and again after my purpose and questioning why I am so committed to being kind in the first place.

It’s precisely at these times of deep delusion that a faith in the Triple Gem, in the words of our teachers and in the power of love and compassion are what is called for because pure reason leaves me stranded and starving like an ass between two haystacks. May I make the aseveration to cling always to metta and karuna even when I lack the wisdom to understand why.

Posted by: Upāsaka | 08/14/2014

Death and Vacation

This vacation is the first we have been on since tuings went south with the business and although things have somewhat improved money is constantly on my mind here. I have always been scandalized by the sums of money that are spent on vacation but after living o. Thw razor’s edge I have slipped into an almost neurotic obsession.

My preoccupation is, of course, obvious to my wife and she said something that struck me the other day as we crossed from Bocas del Toro to Almirante. In essence she asked me to compare my fear of not having enough money to a fear of dying. Do I sit around worrying about not all of the ways I might die? If not then why do I worry constantly about not having enough? Why do I worry about not being able to provide?

Posted by: Upāsaka | 08/12/2014

Turning Difficulties into Trainings

I can’t think of many other things that are less conducive to formal Dhamma practice than family vacations. Schedules are non-existent, solitude impossible and one is constantly being baked in the furnace of “family fun” or the pursuit thereof.

As a result the idea that I might be able to see the myriad problems ans frustrations as opportunities to develop the paramis is very attractive and I have been experimenting with it during my time here. No, I have not reached heights of ecstatic ease and things seem no less difficult but at least the suffering has a meaning and a purpose that it did not before. And, as small and insignificant as that seems, it means the world to me.

Posted by: Upāsaka | 08/10/2014

Good Enough

Practice today seems largely to be about having faith in the methods and intentions which underly it. As hard as it can seem at times like this to cultivate the understanding that it is good enough to just work on the causes and let the results come as they may I know it is just what is needed. Yes, I have only sat for 21 minutes today. Yes, my mind was all over the place. Yes, conditios aren’t perfect. And yet it’s all good enough. In fact it’s better than good enough because for the millions of others on this planet the opportunity to spend 20 minutes cultivating peace is simply not an option. May I be grateful for the blessings of the Dhamma and not squander my life.

Posted by: Upāsaka | 08/08/2014

Grace

This morning I was awoken from my first full night’s sleep in two days feeling refreshed but circumstances were, as always, imperfect. My family of four shared one bed while my father-in-law slept in the twin bed next to us. Suffice it to say that the kids were threatening to waken him so, despite myself, I roused myself in irritation to try to put things in order. Discontent with imperfection had begun to take root in my heart.

With that situation taken care it was onto food, drink and the hundred other pursuits dedicated to securing creature comforts. It was at some point during my frantic race to eat something tasty, get enough coffee and generally ensure that my day was proceeding just-so that I realized I was acting as if all of this were owed to me. I was simply concerned with stuffing myself with sense pleasure and had forgotten to reflect for even a moment with gratitude for all that I was able to receive. Worse yet, my discontent was allowed to have free reign over my heart, pushing it on to voraciously devour each new experience with no regard for anything but its ephemeral pleasure.

May I never allow myself to delight in the senses with mindless abandon. May I always be grateful for all I receive and, whenever there is anyone with whom to share, may I always put my needs and wants last. 

Posted by: Upāsaka | 08/08/2014

Routine Interrupted

We made it to Panama after an overnight journey that took three planes and over 15 hours. Obviously I haven’t been able to sit in formal meditation at all and am surprised that I’ve even been able to find the time to write here. And, despite the fact that today’s post is more a meta-post than anything else the fact that I’m still keeping up the practice is good enough for me. And now I’m off for five minutes of meditation.

Posted by: Upāsaka | 08/06/2014

More on the Moment

670px-Band-aid-Step-3The idea and practice of purifying one’s morality has been at the fore of my awareness since listening to the Dhamma talk I mentioned a few days ago. Forgive me for being cynical but all of the talk we hear in spiritual circles about “being in the moment” or the “beauty of the moment” has always left me cold. Why? Well, because unless we know what to do with the moment there is nothing intrinsically good or special about it. But, my disdain has obviously not served me for, even though I paid lip service to understanding that we need to be constantly creating right and skillful intentions with each passing moment and be ever on guard for the unwholesome I seemed to have let whatever thoughts and intentions there were trapse on through. It seems that it was only after they destroyed the place and set the house on fire that I took notice and then tried to correct the problem.

Band-Aid Practice

For most of my life as a disciple of the Dhamma my approach to the practice has been what I would call “band-aid practice” or management by crisis. I’m not too sure what it is that I do with my mind most of the time but it really does seem that I’ve been a little too laissez-faire and use most of my formal practice to clean up the mess instead of cultivating more wholesome states. The poignant realization that the law of kamma means not only that we will inexorably experience the results of our actions but that we have free will to choose how we will act ONLY IN THIS MOMENT has opened my eyes and made me much more aware of what I am doing with the mind, speech and body at all times.

May I give up my band-aid practice and continue to cultivate my understand of the Dhamma.

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