"When understood, the Buddha’s universe..is anything but alien and inhibiting. It is a world full of hope, where everything we need to do can be done and everything that matters is within human reach. It is a world where kindness, unselfishness, non-violence, and compassion achieve what self-interest and arrogance cannot. It is a world where any human can be happy in goodness and the fullness of giving." ❦ Eknath Easwara

April 26, 2013

Spilled milk and the Dharma in Everyday Life

"There can be no real spiritual growth without deeply understanding ourselves just the way we are. Momentary peace and bliss is very encouraging but that alone cannot bring transformation." ~ Sayadaw Jotika

To me, the two keys here are understanding "just the way we are" and the understanding that we have to practice presence. With mindfulness, using the tool of "noting" what is arising, we can pay attention to what we are sensing, feeling, seeing with non-resistance and full acceptance. That path leads to liberation.

For example, I was cooking lunch in the kitchen today, and I spilled some milk, making a mess, and felt really irritated at myself. Since today I'd been making progress in paying attention, the irritation isn't just mindless; I catch myself in the moment and note, "Feeling really irritated with myself." Observing more keenly: "Feeling self-judgmental — what is that about? All I did was spill some milk. Because this happened, (I moved my arm the wrong way), that happened -- I spilled the milk. That's all — just cause and effect. So, what is all this self-judgment behind the initial irritation?"

Looking into self-judgment with curiosity and full attention... what do I see? Oh, man, I don't want to see that ugly psychological stuff! That can't be me. I can't be that way. "No," my dharma understanding encourages me, "look into this and *understand deeply, * without judgment!" More painful feelings arise, and I see big self-hating going on... no, wait, I can't feel that! Self-hate is wrong!

But in this light of awakening, self-hatred is neither right nor wrong. It just is. So, I accept: feeling self-hatred. Self-hatred is what I feel. Don't resist. Just see it as it is. Hold it in full loving attention. Get some help from my friend and anchor, the breath: Breathing in, I feel self-hatred. Breathing out, I embrace myself in compassionate presence. I just get quiet and work with the breath for a while. Then, seeing self-hate as just self hate, being totally present with the self hate, I feel something wonderful happening...without effort or thought, insight arises... self-hate is not-self! It arises in mind with causes and conditions; it passes away in mind with changing causes and conditions. Just that. Nothing more. Not "I" or "me" or "mine."

Self-hated is anicca, transient, and self-hate is anatta, not self. This is not an intellectual view or metaphysical position to believe; it's something I've actually now seen and known for myself through practicing presence and attention and non-resistance to the arising and passing away of things.

Continuing with the breath and presence, the knotted, painful energies release. I feel happy. A great hindrance has been diminished, toxins removed.  I feel clean. I feel light, in all senses of that word.  I smile like a Buddha!

The Four Noble truths are once again proved in action: First Noble Truth: there was suffering; the path is to look into that and see that suffering just as is; Second Noble Truth: with that non-resistant looking, the causes and conditions for suffering came to light; Third Noble Truth: with presence, insight, and non-resistance to what is, the end of suffering naturally arose; Fourth Noble Truth: practicing this mindfulness, attention, and compassionate presence are the path that leads to the end of suffering.

So, this is what can happen when you spill some milk! — if you are willing to really be with all that arises, whatever your particular "knots" and hindrances may be, minor or major. And to me, this is the great joy of the dharma, for there is a path of liberation and we can find walk it in the simplest and most mundane aspects of our life. Indeed, in a great, non-sectarian sense, the dharma is our life it is what is — it is simply the way things work, when we know. We just don't know this fully yet. But if we will learn how to listen to that in us which *does* know it, that inner light will guide us all the way home.

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