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“The only way to end global suffering is through the awakening of individuals”
THE “SNOWBALL” OF JUDGMENT AND HOW TO STOP IT
“Judgments snowball until the mass of mind-material overwhelms you. It is important to know how to break the cycle. Notice if you judge, and then notice if you judge yourself for judging, and then notice if you judge yourself for judging yourself for judging, and so on. If the tangled mess is too complex and hard to follow, just notice the feeling of all those judgments until you can discern patterns and notice those. The better you get at noticing what you are thinking and feeling in the moment, the quieter your mind will become, and the more you will be able to notice individual thoughts before they can spin out of control. You must see yourself exactly as you are in the moment without flinching or turning away, without apology or rationalization, without creating a ” me” out of it—as in I’m no good because I’m angry and I’m angry because I’m no good. That is how you get wound up tight. That generates more anger. You are afraid of dissolving, so you contract in fear, judging yourself to defend against dissolution. Ecstasy is terrifying for the ego to taste, much less BE.
Your mind will try to lash out and get you involved in its ugliness by getting you to judge yourself for judging. Remember, you are not your mind. If your mind lashes out, notice it but recognize that you are the witness while your mind is the perpetrator. Let it show you what you are doing unconsciously, because on some level you are imbuing your mind with a sense of self that keeps it going. The mind tries to get you to identify with it. You are not your mind, but you are responsible for its behavior, in the same way that you are not a vicious dog, but if you own a vicious dog, you are responsible for watching it and keeping it from attacking others or responding appropriately if it does attack someone. As you go through your day, notice what the mind is doing. Keep it on a leash. Discipline it by developing discriminating awareness. Often, the mind lies in wait for you to let your guard down. If your mind suddenly rages out of control, just notice it. Like a vicious dog, it’s not who you are. It may feel like you, but it’s not. You must witness it impersonally and see it for what it is, without judgment. This keeps you from beating yourself up when you see what it’s up to.
Judgment obscures your true nature and keeps you from having permanent peace and satisfaction, like a pond that is clogged with trash. If you unclog the pond and tap into life without judgment, you will taste the sweetness of Freedom like spring water from a pristine well, the Truth you have been looking for as long as you can remember.”
We’re not really dependent on anyone or anything. We’re engaging in a ritual of dependence and making our happiness depend on various relations.
Happiness is inherent in the self position or in our real condition of life. When we begin to notice this, this is the beginning of renunciation. This is the beginning of the expression of true understanding. It doesn’t dissociate us from relations, it simply associates us with a higher principle.
If we depend on relations for this feeling of happiness, that feeling will always be corrupted, threatened and so forth, and will always be associated with the mechanism of dependence. And likewise we’ll always be moved to get independent because we don’t like the feeling that happiness is dependent on someone else, something else, some condition, some object, some circumstance. So we don’t really settle, even in these dependencies. We rebel against them, even. Therefore we become dissociated in relations that we depend on. We corrupt our own happiness in a circumstance in which we do have the option to be happy.
We make our happiness depend on relations and therefore are always suffering in the context of relationship – suffering dependence, manufacturing independence, corrupting relationships, going from object to object, relationship to relationship – struggling all our lives in a circumstance in which we ritually make happiness depend on relationships. And then also struggle with that very fact, resist that very ritual…
Being dependent on relations and conditions, you only feel free to magnify that happiness under certain conditions. So people feel a kind of modest state of well-being, or pleasure, at best, in the ordinary moments of existence. But it’s really clouded over by doubt and dis-ease, unhappiness, threat, fear, anxiety, physical, emotional, mental reactivity and all the rest of it.
It’s only in the million dollar moments – great occasions, great successes, great meetings, great newness and so forth - that you give yourself the liberality to fully feel happy, to be expanded, to be magnified without containment, without limitation, without contraction. These moments pass and the rest of your life is spent seeking a similar moment.
Wisdom is to observe the mechanics of that whole affair: of, basically, unhappiness, in which happiness is an occasional incident within the framework of ritualized relatedness. And to observe the mechanics, and to understand them and to be able to penetrate them to the point of understanding their law, their source condition, is the essence of the beginnings of the spiritual process.
Find the virtue in the self position, prior to a ritualized dependency. This is the beginning of the spiritual process. Until it begins there isn’t any spiritual process, you see.
-excerpts from the talk Ritual of Sorrow, by Adi Da, 1983
“Fear is the raw feeling generated by the ego’s struggle to stave off oblivion. To awaken, your awareness must penetrate to the deepest levels of your fear, to your core, and disidentify from all selfing.
As you meditate into your core emotions, they become more empty, vulnerable, and obscure. Emptier states reflect energy liberated by profound unknowing, the most raw or “naked” of which is the pure, undiluted fear of death, or terror. People want to be liberated from this core terror and the garden variety anxiety on its surface but proceed in the wrong way by avoiding it. Paradoxically, wanting to end anxiety is its ever-renewing cause. Seeing anxiety for what it is without trying to get rid of it ends it. Try to be with it fully without grasping or avoidance. Stay with it. Feel it so clearly and profoundly that it dissolves into Formlessness.
Terror defines selfing: a feeling of existence we assume is real, similar to a constant stomach cramp whose cause we never question because it has always been there. We try to get rid of it by resisting it, but this strengthens it and keeps it going because it is caused by resistance. We think that we have to resist fear to get rid of it, but instead we must accept it. Resistance strengthens it, and radical acceptance destroys it. To find Freedom, you must investigate the terror in your experience fully, accepting what you find there all the way down to the root.”
-James Wood, Ten Paths to Freedom
“Fear is only our reading…the mood reflected in our contraction, our recoil from infinity, our attempts to survive, our narcissism. If instead of holding on – to mind and emotion and body and relations and the world itself – we release it all, there is no fear whatsoever.
Fear is only the reflection of the holding on.”
-Adi Da, The Religion of the Whole Body, 1977
(It’s taken me a few days to bring my thoughts together. This post will be a bit longer than usual.)
This weekend in Tucson we were struck by an incredible tragedy, the shooting outside of a grocery store where congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords held a “Congress on your Corner” event. 6 dead and 14 wounded. The past few days in Tucson have been somber, and subdued… the aftermath of mass murder in a small city.
In our shock, we all suddenly remember that we’re hanging here in this life by a thread, that death could strike any of us at any time, in the most violent of ways.
The effect on the community is palpable. Out and about, on campus, in restaurants and coffee shops, even in traffic, I’ve noticed more eye contact, more chit chat, more patience, more meaningful interactions.
This tragedy will fade to eventually become another vaguely remembered headline of extreme violence. For now, it feels like a powerful, collective mediation on mortality. An awareness of what’s really important, expressions of love, support and care.
There is also the inevitable talk in terms of good and evil, the good guys vs. the bad guys. Of course, we all ask, what can be done about this?? For me, I have to look at how I am contributing to the negativity, fear, anger, the evil. My contribution to negativity may be a small, ‘normal’ amount, but I cannot see another way. I have to clean up my part of it, if I hope to experience and inspire true change in others and the community.
Reading the words of my Teachers brings comfort and intensifies my commitment to practice in response to the violence. I’d like to share a passage with you written by my primary Teacher, James Wood.
From The Path of Awakening from the chapter ‘Action’ in the section on violence (2007, p. 108).
Recognition of Truth ends violence because there is no conflict in it. Violence and war are at the root caused by resistance to Reality. The world exists as a conflict between Reality and what the mind thinks Reality should be. If you can see that you are actively fighting Reality, you can stop doing it. That is the beginning of world peace. Begin by noticing how your anger is caused by resistance to what is, creating an unpleasant feeling ranging from mild irritation to full-blown fury.
Violence begins in you as turbulent emotions such as annoyance, irritation, frustration, and anger that are severe forms of resistance. Annoyance, irritation and frustration are low-grade forms of anger, and rage is violent, explosive anger. These feelings often lead to some kind of destructive action, such as physical violence against a person or angry speech. All violent actions, even words or harsh movements, are harmful to others. Notice that any form of discordant feeling in you is a form of violence. Notice if your movements become angular and sudden. If so, violence is brewing in you. Observe that, when you get angry, you are contributing to violent energy on the planet. If you really want to contribute to world peace, find the cause of your own anger and eliminate it. Then you can be a cause of peace.
In his talk “The cure for evil is consciousness” James speaks about the critical importance of acknowledging violence in ourselves:
To really be struck by it, and to say on some level, I can’t live like this. I can’t afford to. The world is a cesspool of violence and I’m tired of being a part of it, contributing to it. Perhaps by small spoonfuls, and yet, still contributing.
Blessing, peace, hope and healing to all whose lives have been affected by the tragic shooting in our beautiful Tucson on Saturday.
I would love to hear from you, dear readers and friends on the path.
“The unawakened state is characterized by resistance or this shouldn’t be happening. Suffering is caused by a split between Reality and what you think it should be. When what is happening and what you think should be happening are different, you suffer. To the degree that you energize what you think should be happening in opposition to what is happening, you experience the pain of unconsciousness, like steel plates grinding against each other.
How do you know what should be happening? Look around; it’s happening.
There is nothing you can do about it.
In addition to a should, resistance can also be expressed as a want or a need: this shouldn’t be happening then becomes I want this not to be happening or I need this not to be happening. If what I want to be happening or what I need to be happening is different from what actually is happening, I generate pain and unconsciousness. For example, consider the following statements: “It should be raining.” “I want it to rain.” “I need it to rain.” If it’s not raining, attaching to these thoughts hurts. In the awakened state, I recognize that what should be happening, what I want to be happening, and what I need to be happening are all the same thing.”
I love these words. All the Teachers I study say this same thing in different ways. This is what it comes down to. The main ingredients in the Recipe for Disaster* are: shoulds, wants and needs. Believe the thoughts are true, mix it up… and out comes dissatisfaction.
According to the mind, things very, very rarely happen in the right way at the right time. The mind perceives that it is threatened and thinks it can remedy the situation by getting more - more affirmation, more attention, more acceptance, more understanding, more forgiveness, more stuff, better stuff… It feels if it could just get its needs met, it would be ok. But because it tends to perceive lack, the self is convinced that its needs are not being met, and it misses the beauty in surrender, in Reality. It misses a lot of things, believing the ‘wants’ and ‘needs’ are valid, appropriate, true, and worth fighting for, damn it.
Add some inquiry to the mix, and the Recipe for Disaster will be completely ruined. I tried this yesterday. I added some inquiry and the whole thing – all the swirling wants and needs – dissolved and turned into a little slice of freedom. Can you taste it? Who is this that wants this and needs that?
Questions for readers:
Do you find it painful to believe thoughts that say ‘this shouldn’t be happening’? What do you do with stressful thought patterns? Has inquiry been useful in your life?
“You know, most haunted houses aren’t haunted until someone walks inside it. (Laughter) We do the haunting ourselves and don’t know it. You’d better remember that little figure of speech so you won’t make the same mistake again.”
from a talk given 3/8/1992
Vernon Howard‘s Higher World – MP3 CD Volume 33, talk 823
For a great, no-nonsense, smack-down talk about fear, haunting, scary mental demons, ghosts and goblins please see:
Hello Dear Readers,
In order to follow up on the discussion from the last post on truth, I will be posting a three-part series over the next week or so. Thank you for being here. Your comments are very welcome!
Suffering, truth and Truth: Three Part Series
Part one: Do you suffer?
One of the purposes of this blog is to connect with others who are interested in freedom from suffering and so it’s important to get clear about what we mean by suffering.
If you are thinking, ‘What is she going on about suffering for? I’m not suffering. Life is good,’ I’m not going to attempt to convince you that you are suffering. Although I do see great value in paying attention to whether or not you are.
Buddhism is based on Gautama’s enlightenment, his awakening to freedom from suffering. From the Buddha, we have the Four Noble Truths:
- Life is suffering
- The origin of suffering is attachment
- The cessation of suffering is attainable
- The path to the cessation of suffering
When I first heard the Four Noble Truths, I felt very strongly that I had found a spiritual home. At the same time, I also thought – I cannot be suffering when there are people in the world being tortured, starving, homeless, sick, etc. I wouldn’t dare say I was suffering when I contemplated the suffering of those less fortunate than myself.
But I wanted to check out the First Noble Truth. I asked myself, is it true, life is suffering? For me? What does it mean to suffer? The Buddha pointed out sickness, death, loss and poverty as kinds of suffering that we humans will typically face in a lifetime. I located suffering in myself in the form of stress, anxiety, fear, dissatisfaction and just plain old excruciating existential pain.
Perhaps it sounds gutsy or self-centered to claim suffering, given that I live in one of the most affluent countries in the world, given that I enjoy good health, access to education and good relationships. The view that life is suffering does not mean that I don’t feel extremely grateful my situation. I do notice the sunset is beautiful. And I don’t go around gloomy and brooding and upset all the time.
So why would focusing on suffering be useful? Why not just be happy and focus on the good stuff?
In order to do something about suffering in the world at large, I have to start with how I am participating in it. It’s really important to note that the cause of suffering that I experience has the same cause as the extreme suffering experienced by others. The cause is (Second Noble Truth) attachment to ‘I, me and mine’, a pervading sense of ‘I don’t like this’. (I wrote about this in a prior post, and will probably write more about it in future)
Accepting the First Noble Truth reminds me of the idea that you don’t have to hit bottom before you can start to do something about your situation. You can see the long term trajectory of your particular brand of suffering, and raise the bottom to meet you by cultivating a heightened awareness of it, even if you don’t experience hunger, violence or physical limitations.
Please stay tuned for the next post on why we do not stop at ‘life is suffering’, and the importance of recognizing the difference between relative and absolute truth.
I appreciated all the comforts, privileges and pleasures I had in my life, but I could never shake the underlying sensation of dissatisfaction. (I also felt guilty for feeling dissatisfied, because I had the comforts and privileges.) I tried to talk myself out of the dissatisfaction. I worked jobs in social services. Nothing seemed to help. I have a serious case of The Dreaded Gom-Boo.
Some may say that stress is just a part of life, that it is wise to just accept it and treat the symptoms – with humor, philosophy, religion, alcohol, etc. For me, ignoring the haunting dissatisfaction (or temporarily covering it up) has never worked. I want to get to the bottom of it.
When I discovered this teaching, I learned that I do not have to continue living with stress.
I learned that it is extremely important to focus my attention precisely on the sensation of dissatisfaction, not to avoid it. It was important to get serious about examining it.
I learned that there are people, even people living now, in modern times and situations, who are free of suffering. And they are not sitting around enjoying their own personal contentment. Pain continues to arise in others, so they are busy teaching. It’s like in action movies, when the heroes fall in love – they do not, will not, stop to enjoy the honeymoon. They have more people to save, more villains to defeat, and they just keep going, hardly missing a beat, in love and fighting the good fight.