Whacked by the Worldly Winds

Whacked by the Worldly Winds

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blown away” by jill mv

I was recently bowled over by a particularly strong worldly wind—loss with regard to an opportunity I had been working towards for years. (A writing project I had poured much literal tears into). The way things fell apart wasn’t a surprise per se. Anyone with clear vision would have seen it coming. But I didn’t see it, and it hit me. Hard.

Rather than open my heart to those around me, I put on a tough face, even though on the inside I was shredded. I can’t pinpoint many times in my life where I would say I was ever depressed, but now I know what getting close to rock bottom feels like. I lost the will to create. I lost the will to try. This wasn’t dispassion; this was defeat.

“Loss arises for an uninstructed run-of-the-mill person. He does not reflect, ‘Loss has arisen for me. It is inconstant, stressful, & subject to change.’ He does not discern it as it has come to be. His mind remains consumed with the loss.” —AN 8:6

Of course, in retrospect I was setting myself up for defeat. I heaped all my hope for security and well-being into something inconstant, unstable, subject to change, and—well—change it did. As anyone who builds a sandcastle knows, one day their fortress of mud will be washed away. That’s the nature of the world, but—through ignorance—I rebelled against it.

Somewhere in my mind I knew all of this, but the part of me that wanted to relish in self-pity and loathing won over. I can’t lie… a big part of it is still there. But now I’m turning my mind to the Dhamma and peeling myself off the floor.

Over and over the Venerable Ones remind me that the world is swept away, so to put my  strongest efforts into things that have a lasting impact. My projects still matter, but integrity, generosity, virtue, and all the qualities of mind that I actually have at least some control over… those will make the most difference. Then when another gust of wind comes, I’ll be a little bit stronger, a little bit wiser… until I get to the point where the worldly winds won’t affect me at all.

“Now, loss arises for a well-instructed disciple of the noble ones. He reflects, ‘Loss has arisen for me. It is inconstant, stressful, & subject to change.’ He discerns it as it actually is. His mind does not remain consumed with the loss… He is released, I tell you, from suffering & stress.”—AN 8:6

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Homage to the Buddha

Buddha on Altar
My Home Altar

“The sage, free of delusion,
rid of barrenness, victor in battle;
he’s untroubled and so even-minded,
with the virtue of an elder and the wisdom of a saint,
stainless in the midst of it all:
he is the Buddha, and I am his disciple. Read more

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Intoxication

What does it mean to be intoxicated [with youth, health, and life]? You forget. You act as if there’s no tomorrow… “Who cares what happens, I’m going to do what I want right now.” That’s how intoxicated people act. They act on impulses and they do all sorts of destructive stuff. Harming not only themselves, but the people around them. It’s mindfulness that helps to sober us up.

— Excerpt from “Intoxication,” a short Dhamma talk by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

Uposatha Review

Uposatha Review

Yesterday was the first full Uposatha that I’ve ever tried to keep, and it was mostly successful. While there were hiccups, I’m happy I was able to do what I did. This will be helpful for my practice of recollection. By refraining from the various vices throughout the day, I did find myself confronting some mental obstacles, but I also found my head was much clearer and with more mental energy and lightness to confront them. I felt less dispersed, if you will.

I began the day with 30 minutes of meditation, and I read the Visakhuposatha Sutta to energize me. I also found a few moments to listen to some short Dhamma talks throughout the day.

Onto how I kept the eight precepts:

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Happy Uposatha!

Happy Uposatha!

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Some inspiring words from the Muluposatha Sutta:

“Furthermore, the disciple of the noble ones reflects thus: ‘As long as they live, the arahants — abandoning the taking of life — abstain from the taking of life. They dwell with their rod laid down, their knife laid down, scrupulous, merciful, compassionate for the welfare of all living beings. Today I too, for this day & night — abandoning the taking of life — abstain from the taking of life. I dwell with my rod laid down, my knife laid down, scrupulous, merciful, compassionate for the welfare of all living beings. By means of this factor I emulate the arahants, and my Uposatha will be observed. Read more

Attachment to the Body

Attachment to the Body

Today I wore a comfortable and simple outfit because I have group meditation later and my legs need space to bend. Problem is, all day I’ve felt self-conscious compared to all the flashy, on-point, and fashionable clothing choices of the people around me. Mind you, I work in midtown Manhattan, so naturally every passerby is a supermodel. They all seem beautiful and attractive, and I feel frumpy next to them.

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Before becoming a meditator, I used to think I wasn’t attached to my body, but now I see how big a lie that was. I check myself shopfront windows, I’m concerned about my weight, and my perfectly clean and tidy—if plain—outfit is fine. Yet I’m discontent next to strangers, and find myself enthralled by attractive shapes and voices.

This is one area of practice I know I need to devote more attention to, my craving for form. I’ve found contemplating the unattractive parts of the body useful, but I’ve never been able to sustain it. There’s more work to be done.

Look at the form beautified
with earrings & gems:
a skeleton wrapped in skin,
made attractive with clothes…

Like a newly painted unguent pot—
a putrid body adorned:
enough to deceive a fool,
but not a seeker for the further shore.

—About Raṭṭhapāla (MN 82)

 

Upping My Practice With The Eight Precepts

Upping My Practice With The Eight Precepts

‘Striving at what is more & more excellent, more & more refined, we will realize unexcelled release.’ That’s how you should train yourselves.

—Gavesin Sutta (AN 5:180)

I’ve always looked at the precepts as a form of protection—protection for myself and others from my own unskillful habits—but truth be told… I’ve been lazy. When it’s convenient for me I’ve told the ocasional “white lie” to wiggle my way out of exasperating situations. I’ve drunk alcohol when it was easier to give into social pressure than to stand up for what I believe in. And now that my garden is starting to bloom, I’m in the uncomfortable position of using either pesticides or my own ingenuity. If the Buddha were sitting next to me he’d shake his head at my shoddy practice, my blemished virtue.

So what’s a guy to do? Well, turn things around of course. Not just because it’s the right thing to do, but because I have faith that the path does lead to true happiness. What better way to recommit than to practice the eight precepts?

When a person takes life, then with the taking of life as a requisite condition, he produces fear & animosity in the here & now, produces fear & animosity in future lives, experiences mental concomitants of pain & despair; but when he refrains from taking life, he neither produces fear & animosity in the here & now nor does he produce fear & animosity in future lives, nor does he experience mental concomitants of pain & despair: For one who refrains from taking life, that fear & animosity is thus stilled.

—Vera Sutta (AN 10:92)

I recently read part of Ajahn Lee Dhammadharo’s book Craft of the Heart and I was inspired to commit fully to Uposatha practice—not only on Uposatha days, but also the day before and after each lunar sabbath. Even more, I want to practice them full-time as much as I can.

Much of my desire to do this comes from finally choosing to take aim at stream-entry and beyond, and upping my practice—in addition to more consistent meditation, study, and charity—is the surest way. After a recent, sudden death in my family, it’s become clear to me just how unstable the world is, and I don’t want to waste my time.

Because of some unfortunate life circumstances, I’ve also found myself quasi-single and in the rare position to practice celibacy full time. I’ve also seen more and more research about how eating one meal a day has real and proven benefits for both the body and mind. Plus, I already sleep on a futon on the floor.

The most difficult habit to renounce will be shows, music, etc., since I often use that as a way to bond with my friends. That may call for some ingenuity on my part.

Of course, I know that dropping these external activities is to give me mental space to drop the internal cravings that drive to go after them in the first place. It will be interesting to see how I handle moderation in eating, in sexual activity of any kind, and in pretty much any indulgence of sensual pleasures. It will also be a great opportunity to practice the Four Immeasurables—good will, compassion, empathetic joy, and equanimity.

It hasn’t crossed my mind if I’m biting off more than I can chew. Actually, I’m excited to try this out. Especially knowing that there are scores of noble disciples before me who have undertaken the same vows and have experienced the joys that come from living a life of blameless conduct.

When do I start? June 1.

“Abandoning the use of intoxicants, the disciple of the noble ones abstains from taking intoxicants. In doing so, he gives freedom from danger, freedom from animosity, freedom from oppression to limitless numbers of beings. In giving freedom from danger, freedom from animosity, freedom from oppression to limitless numbers of beings, he gains a share in limitless freedom from danger, freedom from animosity, and freedom from oppression. This is the fifth gift, the fifth great gift — original, long-standing, traditional, ancient, unadulterated, unadulterated from the beginning — that is not open to suspicion, will never be open to suspicion, and is unfaulted by knowledgeable contemplatives & brahmans.”

—Abhisanda Sutta (AN 8:39)